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Saturday, June 30, 2007

Go News Go! - The Weekly News Recap

As disappointing as the recent film, "1408," it's this week's news!

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Friday, June 29, 2007

Top 5 Places to Start and Indie Band

For as widespread and popular as indie music is becoming, it's surprising to note that the majority of the music I listen to only comes from a handful of places. With that being said, if you're at all interested in forming an indie rock band, or just breaking into the scene, you can't do it in Newark! The following list is comprised of the top 5 places on planet earth where you should move to if you want to start an indie band.

#5: Scotland - It's best to hang out in Glasgow for a while, but you'll never be a successful Scottish indie band if you don't go roam the beautiful countryside every now and then. In recent years, this country has exported some fairly decent music, including the Twilight Sad, Mogwai, Camera Obscura, Franz Ferdinand, and perhaps most notably, Belle and Sebastian. I won't use the "there must be something in the water" cliche (because I'm saving it for #1), but something is definitely going on over in England's red-headed step child. And hey, even if you don't make it as a musician, at least you can say you ate haggis!

#4: Sweden - This completely inconsequential country is quickly becoming the central hub for pansy indie music. Bands like The Concretes, The Cardigans, The Hives, Peter Bjorn and John, and Loney, Dear all hail from this place. If that isn't enough of a reason for you to pack your bags and head to Sweden, maybe the fact that it's totally babealicious will (groupies, anyone?). Sure, that may be a stereotype and I may have no proof to back it up, but isn't the slight chance that it may be true, enough? It should be.

#3: Omaha, Nebraska - Omaha isn't exactly a place where you'd expect to find a seemingly limitless number of hipsters wandering the streets looking for gigs, but it most assuredly is. Sure, the city may have given us crap like 311 and The Faint, but it is also responsible for Elliott Smith, Bright Eyes, Tilly and the Wall, and Cursive! If you're planning to move to Omaha to "exploit the booming music scene" as Jenny Lewis would say, it's probably best to just sit across the street from Saddle Creek records and play your guitar, case open on the ground. Just wait. Keep playing. Eventually, they're sure to sign you. I mean, they signed Conor Oberst.

#2: Austin, Texas - I'm pretty proud of the fact that my home state of Texas was able to produce such talented acts as ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, the American Analog Set, Explosions in the Sky, Voxtrot, Okkervil River, Spoon, and I Love You but I've Chosen Darkness. At the same time, however, I'm a bit disappointed that the best my home city of Houston could do was Mike Jones (who?). Yes, all the bands listed above are from none other than Austin, the capitol of this great state. Even though the competition in Austin is pretty tough, the exposure you'll get for playing at SXSW one year could sky rocket you. Look what it did for Daniel Johnston! Yes, if you're in the United States and you want to make it in the indie music world, there's no better place than Austin, Texas!

#1: Canada - As much as I should hate Canada for the simple fact that it's filled with Canadians, I don't. In fact, Canada has singlehandedly produced some of my favorite music of the last decade or so. Stars, Broken Social Scene, Metric, Tegan and Sara, The Dears, the New Pornographers, Arcade Fire, the Hidden Cameras, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Death From Above 1979, The Unicorns, the list goes on and on! It could be because a lot of these bands work together, or it could be because the Canadian government actually grants money to musicians. Personally, I think there's something in the water. See, I told you I'd use it. I'm a man of my word.

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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Video of the Week - Week 25

Tegan and Sara - "Speak Slow" from the album "So Jealous"

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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Sell-Outs?: The Quiet Rise of Indie Music

Writing the review for Metric's "Grow Up and Blow Away" this morning got me to thinking about the number of times I've heard indie music in television advertisements. In case you missed it, back in 1999 Polaroid debuted the i-Zone camera and the North American ads ran a version of Metric's "Grow Up and Blow Away." It's unclear what kind of help that commercial had in Metric's rise to fame over the last decade, but one has to asume that in made a little bit of difference, right?
From Metric's forgotten i-Zone commercial. The look of shock is a result of the poor sales of i-Zone cameras.

Of course, with every commercial to which an indie band lends its music, there's aways a mob of hipsters with torches and pitchforks close behind, decrying the band as "sell-outs." Of course, labeling a band as such is probably a bit misguided, not to mention completely inaccurate. For me, an artist selling out means that they changed their sound, or who they are as a band for money, fame, or what have you.

A perfect example of this would be the band Staind. Back in 1999 they released their album, brillianty titled "Dysfunction" (that's sarcasm, folks). With it, they released the single "Mudshovel." It got it's fair share of play on MTV and on the radio for the better part of a week, and then it disappeared. So what did Staind do? They changed their approach. They went soft. They released "It's Been Awhile" to much hype and fanfare, and since then every song released has sounded exactly like it. Staind went from Headbanger's Ball to MTV Unplugged and never looked back.

That, friends, is selling out.

Are indie bands selling out by allowing their music to be used by companies for advertisements? I say no. Sure, Of Montreal may sell their melody for "Wraith Pinned to the Mist and Other Games" to Outback Steakhouse, but what came of it? According to the band, the profits were used to add screens and costumes for touring. Anyone who has been to an Of Montreal show, both pre and post Outback commercial, knows that the difference is astronomical and well worth the 5 or 6 fans that may have decried their actions. And when you really look at it, Of Montreal took the money they made on the commercial and gave it right back to the fans. In no way is that selling out.

But what about other bands who aren't giving these profits back to the fans, so to speak? As a musician, one of my primary goals is to get my content to people who are willing to listen by any means necessary. I can't help but thinking that this is a somewhat universal goal in the world of music, especially for indie artist. If that's true, then how is selling your music for one company to use on an advertisement any different than putting out a CD through another. It's all just another way to get the music into peoples' ears.

Does that mean that Wilco's deal with Volkswagon, Mates of States' deal with AT&T, Dntel's deal with that car company, and even The Elected's deal with Orbitz gum are all justified? Absolutely! I mean, indie artists aren't exactly living in mansions and driving Bentleys. If they want to make a little extra cash and get their music to the people at the same time, more power to them; especially if it ends up going back to the fans as Of Montreal has done!

So before you set out to burn all your indie albums, think about this: would you rather hear Wilco or Nickelback? Of Montreal or Rihanna? Mates of State or Justin Timberlake? The choice is yours. Personally, I'm happy that the artists' that I love are being heard. It may mean that I have to put up with more prepubescent tools when I go to a show, but if it means that I don't have to put up with as much garbage, sign me up.

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Metric: "Grow Up and Blow Away"

Does anyone remember the i-Zone? It was a little Polaroid camera that could print little messages on the instant photo. That was the gimmick, and quite unsurprisingly, it failed miserably. However, the North American television ads that accompanied this sure-fire failure contained a hidden gem. Floating in the background was a woman singing, "If this is the life, why does it feel so good to fly away?" The woman was Emily Haines, the band was Metric, and the song was a TV-friendly version of "Grow Up and Blow Away," the title track to their ill-fated debut album. Originally recorded in 2001 (or 1999, depending on your source), the album features Metric as a two-piece and was delayed again and again by their record label until it was finally shelved to make room for "Old World Underground, Where Are You Now?" Six years later, and the album is finally being dusted off. Is it worth the wait?

Absolutely! "Grow Up and Blow Away" is immediately captivating, thanks to the lead-off and title track. The lyrics are back in their original form, Emily singing "Why does it feel so good to die today?" One of the things that's instantly noticeable is that Metric as a two-piece is a much more toned-down affair. With just James and Emily, the songs are often just comprised of a drum machine and synthesizer. The result is a Metric that is just as awesome as their current incarnation, just less chaotic.

It's all still really cool music though. "Rock Me Now" features a funky musical accompaniment and finds Emily merely speaking throughout its playtime. It's actually James that does all the singing on the song, which is quite a shock to hear. At the same time, it's an undeniably cool song, making you feel like throwing on your MIB-shades and bobbing your head uncontrollably. "The Twist" is another great song that utilizes an almost hip-hop beat. In the chorus, when James and Emily are harmonizing with each other, it's absolutely beautiful. It makes me wish that more of this will happen on future Metric albums, though the actual chances of this are slim.

Though hints of their current new wave sound are apparent throughout the album, the majority of "Grow Up and Blow Away" feels much more like a straightforward pop album than anything else. "Raw Sugar," for example, has a Corrine Bailey Rae-esque musical accompaniment and features Emily singing "I don't want to die living in a high-rise grave" in a very soulful way. It's very un-Metric like, but at the same time, it's still a really great song. "White Gold" is another un-Metric song, sounding more like it could've been ripped off of Emily's solo album, "Knives Don't Have Your Back" if it weren't for the harmonies and non-minimal production.

In the end, "Grow Up and Blow Away" is an album that all Metric fans should definitely check out. Though it peaks at the very first song, you'd be a fool to stop listening there. Even in their early history as a band, Metric shows an uncanny ability to craft brilliantly infectious pop songs that will stick with you for weeks and weeks. Although the sound of the album has a definite early-2000s feel to it, most of these songs stand the test of time (unlike the i-Zone). It may have taken six years to hit the shelves, but "Grow Up and Blow Away" is well worth the wait.

Recommended for fans of Metric and anyone who still rocks the i-Zone like it's 1999!

Key Tracks:
1. "Grow Up and Blow Away"
2. "Rock Me Now"
3. "The Twist"
4. "On the Sly"
5. "White Gold"

7 out of 10 Stars

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Monday, June 25, 2007

The White Stripes: "Icky Thump"

Back in the early 2000s, garage rock was going to be the "next big thing" after the forthcoming decline of pop-punk and Britney Spears. You had The Hives, The Vines, and perhaps most importantly, The White Stripes. Perhaps it was their mystique (Are the brother and sister? Husband and wife?), or maybe it was Jack White's amazing ability to take a single guitar and make it sound like anything he wanted it to, but The White Stripes have hung around long after all those other bands faded into "Oh, who sang that one song?" territory. For better or for worse, The Stripes have stuck to their guns, staying true to the music that got them rich and famous. But should we still care?

If the title track is any indication of what's coming on the rest of the album, the answer is a resounding "yes." Unfortunately, it isn't. "Icky Thump" is a raw channeling of classic rock 'n' roll with some added Stripes flair. Jack White is at his absolute best here, utilizing his singing, half talking method of delivery that has helped in their rise to fame. At the same time, some of his lyrics are just absurd. Take, for example, "White Americans want nothing better to do. Why don't you kick yourself out? You're an immigrant too!" Umm, sorry Jacky boy. That's not exactly how it works. Stick to the guitar and save yourself the embarrassment that is sure to accompany your haphazard political statements.

"You Don't Know What Love Is (You Just Do As You're Told)" has a more traditional southern rock sound to it. In my initial listen to the song, I wasn't too impressed. However, I was surprised to find its melody stuck in my head later in the day. Still, we've heard this all before from the band, so it is more of a guilty pleasure than anything else. "300 MPH Torrential Outpour Blues" is a really great song, despite the fact that it's one of the calmest songs on the album. The guitar riff that runs throughout the song is absolutely infectious, and the screechy, chaotic solos are just as impressive. When Jack sings, "One thing's for sure; in that graveyard I'm gonna have the shiniest pair of shoes" I chuckled a little bit and though that it could very well be the coolest ending to a song that I've heard in a while.

Perhaps the most impressive song on the album is "Conquest," a cover of Patti Page's 1950's battle of the sexes classic. The song has a very south of the border feel to it, complete with mariachi trumpets and Jack White's belting of "Coooooonqueeest!" It is a very stylish, and cool song. "Bone Broke" has classic White Stripes written all over it. Jack's vocals are completely thrashed with distortion, and there are hints of "Fell In Love With a Girl" all over it, despite it's toned-down nature.

There are very few notable tracks throughout the album's second half, which is perhaps the biggest flaw of "Icky Thump." Most of the songs end up bleeding into one another, sounding unbearably similar. In fact, the only thing really worth listening to are the things Jack does with the guitar. "I'm Slowly Turning Into You" and "A Martyr for My Love for You" both feature impressive guitar parts, the latter of which is actually a fairly decent song. "Effect and Cause" closes the album out nicely. A simple acoustic guitar song, Jack's vocals are impressive, and it's nice to hear the band trade layers of distortion for a relatively calm feel.

"Icky Thump" is truly hit and miss. While there are some impressive tracks on the album, the band really brings nothing new to the table. Of course, when you're a two-person band and one of your members really can't play their instrument, it's tough to evolve. The White Stripes may have stuck around long after all those other "The-bands" fell off the face of the planet, but their music is just as stale. That may be a harsh assessment, but six albums into their career, The White Stripes have not progressed at all. Though it's nice to hear a little rock 'n' roll every now and then, these guys aren't saving the genre. They're choking it to death.

Recommended for long-time fans of The White Stripes, and to anyone who likes classic rock but find themselves asking "Who are the White Stripes?" You'll find them refreshing.

Key Tracks:
1. "Icky Thump"
2. "300 MPH Torrential Outpour Blues"
3. "Conquest"
4. "A Martyr for My Love For You"
5. "Effect and Cause"

5 out of 10 Stars

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Saturday, June 23, 2007

Go News Go! - The Weekly News Recap

Gosh, I'm so far behind. Sorry for the late updates this week. Enjoy your un-noteworthy news.

Did you enjoy it? Are you happy now?

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Top 5 Bands I'm Just Not That Into

Oh, so you're an indie music blogger huh? Well, here's a list of bands that you must like in order to hold any credibility. These bands are prerequisites! That's what they say, at least. And though I'm not entirely sure who "they" are, they are definitely aggravating. Here's a short list of bands that I "should like" but just don't.

#5: TV on the Radio - The more and more I hear about these guys, the angrier I get. Despite all my attempts and all the will I can muster, I just can't bring myself to actually find a redeeming quality in these guys. I read an interview with some big Hollywood type the other day, though I can't remember who. But I distinctly remember him saying that this was one of his favorite bands. What? Really? I think the fact that some big Hollywood actor likes them should immediately disqualify them as a band I should like. That's like saying I should like Dogstar. I don't. Save the World? No thank you.

#4: Wilco - I'm a fan of a few Wilco songs. But not most. It's a shame really, as I desperately want to like "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot" but just can't figure out what all the hype is about. At least Wilco is talented. That's more than I can say for other bands on the list.

#3: Yo La Tengo - Admittedly, the only YLT album I've had the displeasure of hearing was last year's "I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass," but for such a critically acclaimed album, it was pretty worthless. Now I understand that I have about 20 years of back catalog to catch up on, but nothing I've heard encourages me to do so. So I have to think that any efforts by me to do so will be in vain. For now, I'll just leave them alone.

#2: Pre-1999 The Flaming Lips - It's apparent from their last 3 albums that Wayne Coyne can actually carry a tune, but anything that was made before 1999 only encourages me to stab my ears with a paper clip whose integrity has been compromised. Now, this is coming from a guy who's never heard "Zaireeka," but I've heard the rest. That's enough for me to make a judgment on it. Hell, just looking at a picture of Ryan Adams is enough for me to make a judgment on him, so this one should at least carry a little bit of weight.

#1: Sonic Youth - Sad but true, the one band every indie wannabe needs to enjoy to graduate into an all-out hipster is not one of my favorites. Don't get me wrong "Daydream Nation" has it's definite moments, and I'm sure it was great back when I was in elementary school. But because I was really into Joe Diffie and Carman during those years, I never got to experience it in all its glory. Nowadays, it just isn't doing it for me. If anyone has a problem with it, please write and say so. I need new comments for the "Reader Feedback" section.

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Thursday, June 21, 2007

My Thoughts On "Icky Thump"

I'm not really a big fan of it.

Press Play

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Video of the Week - Week 24

"D.A.N.C.E." by Justice from the album "Cross"

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Monday, June 18, 2007

Dan Deacon: "Spiderman of the Rings"

Despite a silly title, whimsical lyrics, and playful compositions, Dan Deacon's "Spiderman of the Rings" is music one should definitely take seriously. The album is comprised of the sort of glitchy, electronic tinkering that made up Sufjan Stevens' second, pre-states album, "Year of the Rabbit." At the same time, Deacon's music has a much more playful feel than Sufjan's, as evidenced by the title of the album and the tracks it contains. The end result is a fun-filled album, that should not go unnoticed.

"Woody Woodpecker" starts the album off on a rather sour note, to be honest. Almost every second of this 4-minute song is plagued by a sample of the iconic cartoon character's grimace-inducing chuckle, repeated over and over. The song clearly serves as the introduction to "Spiderman of the Rings," as it lacks the focus and characteristics of the album's real songs. As such, it's distractiveness can be excused and easily skipped over. "The Crystal Cat" picks things up a notch, and introduces listeners to what will be an ongoing theme throughout the album; the utilization of squeaky pitch-shifted vocals. What Deacon is actually saying here is a mystery to me, though I get the feeling that what is actually said is less important than what role the vocal melody plays with everything else that is going on.

"Wham City" is a 12-minute epic that features what sounds like a Munchkin Choir singing "There is a mountain of snow across a big land. We have a castle enclosed, there is a fountain. Out of the fountain flows gold into a huge hand," and other ridiculous, though admirable lyrics. The song is constantly evolving throughout it's 12 minutes, even coming to a complete halt at one point, only to slowly rebuild into its opening theme once again. It is certainly an ambitious song, and as such, it is also the highlight of the album.

"Big Milk" is the moment on the album where Deacon sounds most like Sufjan Stevens ala "Year of the Rabbit." It is a mostly calm song that features a xylophone and serves as a much needed exhale to the song it follows. "Okie Dokie" finds Dan coming as close as he ever does to a full on sing-along as he repeats "I've got a rattlesnake gun" like a mantra. Other highlights on the album include "Snake Mistakes" and "Pink Batman," both of which are excellently composed and brilliantly executed by Deacon as he chooses the perfect sounds for each part of the songs. It's hard to imagine them sounding like anything else.

Overall, "Spiderman of the Rings" is anything but disappointing or ill-advised. Deacon comes off as a musician who slaves over his craft, spending hours locked away in his bedroom turning knobs, pushing buttons, and figuring out the perfect lyric for a 5-second segment. Despite his distinctly childish approach to songwriting, his songs are so intricate and complex that they are clearly made by someone who knows what he is doing. Though the talent displayed on the album is astronomical, I have a hard time believing in its longevity. It doesn't seem like an album that I can play repeatedly for weeks without growing tired of it. But it's hard to be disappointed when I know that the time I am able to devote to the album will be some of the most enjoyable I've had in recent memory. If anything, Dan Deacon has created something that you'll always have fond memories of, even if the appeal wears off too soon. Quite simply, it is something you'll have a hard time forgetting. That's a good thing.

Recommended for fans of Sufjan Stevens' "Enjoy Your Rabbit" and anybody who wants to relive the endless wonder of childhood in music form.

Key Tracks:
1. "Wham City"
2. "Okie Dokie"
3. "Snake Mistakes"
4. "Pink Batman"

7 out of 10 Stars

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Saturday, June 16, 2007

Go News Go! - The Weekly News Recap

Better than last week, still worse than most weeks, it's this week!

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Friday, June 15, 2007

Top 5 Of Montreal Albums

Sorry about the late post. Usually I get these lists up before most of you guys are even awake. But I spent all day thinking about what my list would be and what selections would make it up. In the end, I couldn't think of anything decent at all. So here you have it; Plan B! It is no secret that Of Montreal is my absolute favorite band on planet earth. Their library is deep, with hundreds of songs to enjoy (and others to cringe at). With so many songs and albums under their belt, you'd think it would be tough for me to pick my top 5 albums...but it isn't. I've given this a lot of thought. Enjoy Plan B.#5: "Coquelicot Asleep in the Poppies: A Variety of Whimsical Verse" (2001) - I've tried to explain this album to friends, but the fact of the matter is that I really have no clue what the hell is going on here. I think it's about this girl named Coquelicot who falls asleep and dreams about zany Characters...but I'm just not sure. What I am sure about, however, is that I'm absolutely in love with every aspect of this album. Every song, every melody, every ridiculous story about a detective who evaporates into cocoa...this is a brilliant album. Drug-induced circus music, as I always say.

#4: "The Sunlandic Twins" (2005) - In truth, Of Montreal had two breakout albums. Their first garnered them attention from critics and fans alike. Their second garnered attention from prepubescent girls. This is the latter. Never fear though. Despite the fact that The Sunlandic Twins is uncharacteristically mainstream for a band like Of Montreal, it contains some of their best songs to date, including the absolutely funky "Oslo in the Summertime" and the party-fave "The Party's Crashing Us." Definitely an essential for any Of Montreal fan.

#3: "The Gay Parade" (1999)- This is Of Montreal's first breakout album, and according to many, their best. While I absolutely love meeting all the kooky townspeople in The Gay Parade, there's nothing like #s 2 and 1 on the list. Still, there's no denying that songs like "Fun Loving Nun" and "Niki Coco and the Invisible Tree" are anything but brilliant! This was the first real concept album created by Kevin Barnes and Co. and it's definitely their best. If you've never heard "The Gay Parade," you are missing out on one of the most unique and satisfying musical experiences of the last decade. Check it out!

#2: "Satanic Panic in the Attic" (2004) - Despite the fact that "The Gay Parade" was the first Of Montreal album I ever heard, THIS was the first one I ever bought. Walking around the Virgin Megastore (RIP) one day, I passed this CD and remembered that I had heard of this band. The rest is history. From start to finish, it's filled with crazy stories, confusing lyrics and memorable compositions...pretty much like every other Of Montreal album. The fact that it was my first could possibly help its standing in this list. But the fact that it's totally awesome doesn't hurt either.

#1: "Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?" (2007)- Who would've thought that Kevin Barnes could actually write an album about himself rather than a cast of characters, and who would've thought that that album would also be his best? Certainly not me. In fact, I was so in love with "Satanic Panic in the Attic" for so long that I thought it could never have been dethroned. Clearly, I was wrong. "Hissing Fauna" mixes the elecro-pop sounds of "The Sunlandic Twins" with the what-the-hell-is-going-on vibe of "The Gay Parade" and "Coquelicot." The result is the Of Montreal album that I've always wanted, and their most solid album to date. That's why it's #1. Duh.

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Justice: "†"

If the opening seconds of Justice's debut album, " †," don't tell you a thing about what you're in store for, you aren't listening. The mudded brass come marching in like they are coming to destroy, and in a way they are. Justice is a dance/electronica group, to be sure, but to label them as such is travesty in and of itself. Like that imperial death march, Justice is here to destroy. In this case, they have come to demolish your preconceived notions about what dance music is and what it can be. Now, until recently I have avidly campaigned against the genre which I feel is cluttered with mundane "artists" who rely on bad samples and horrendous loops to captivate a somewhat dimwitted audience. My opinion is slowly starting to change as I am introduced to artists who are challenging this perception. Justice is one of them.

From the opening track to the very last second of "†," I found myself, not only captivated, but amazed, entertained, and energized. Justice comes off as a bull charging towards its victim, with so much momentum and energy that attempting to slow it down would be a fruitless endeavor. Their songs are constantly changing, never relying on a single loop or phrase for too long. And these songs are not lite, easy-listening electronica songs either. They're harsh and brash, with the mids turned up too high for comfort. It's not your average dance album, it is a revelation!

"Let There Be Light" begins with a near-unlistenable melody, but adds in drums, a thumping bassline, and so many cuts and glitches that you'll be in love with it before you know it. It concludes with an absolutely awesome composition that harmonizes synths with synths in a way that sounds like it'd be better suited for the closing credits of a Super Mario Bros. game than a dance record. "D.A.N.C.E." is one of the few songs on
" †" with actual vocals, and while I found them a bit childish and annoying at first, I was shocked to find the song stuck in my head hours after I first encountered. The song sounds like the Jackson 5 on methamphetamines, if only for the lyrics, "Do the D.A.N.C.E., stick to the B.E.A.T." The disco-esque strings and sing-along quality of the song make the song a sure-fire hit, which is probably why it is the album's first single.

Elsewhere on the album, there's the cut-filled "New Jack," the completely overpowering, yet satisfying "Phantom Pt. I" (and it's more audience friendly second part), and the 100% guilty pleasure "The Party." The latter features such terrible rap-lines as "Let's get drunk and freaky-fied," and if you actually find yourself liking it, then you may want to see if pigs grew wings. It's the one low point on an otherwise flawless album.

The best part about
"†" is the fact that it never gets boring, an attribute clearly made possible by the group's insistence on keeping the songs fresh around every corner and their refusal to use one loop or riff for any extended period of time. The quality of the songs is through the roof, and the genres touched upon in each song are too numerous to mention. While "D.A.N.C.E." is clearly your crowd-pleaser, songs like "Stress" (which envokes serious Requiem for a Dream soundtrack memories) and "Waters of Nazareth" are designed for the sole purpose of making you nod your head in approval while simultaneously scratching it, thinking "What the heck am I listening to?" " †" is an achievement in electronic music that should be listened to by fans and naysayers of the genre alike. Finding a true definition for the music contained on this album is impossible, so I'll just call it this: amazing!

Recommended for fans of electronic music and anyone who wants to experience shock and awe firsthand.

Key Tracks:
1. "Let There Be Light"
2. "D.A.N.C.E."
3. "Phantom Pt. I"
4. "DVNO"
5. "Stress"

7 out of 10 Stars

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Video of the Week - Week 23

"Bandits" by Midlake from the album "The Trials of Van Occupanther"

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Monday, June 11, 2007

Young Galaxy: "Young Galaxy"

Fronted by ex-Stars member Stephen Ramsay and his significant other Catherine McCandless, Young Galaxy is one of the latest indie acts to come from the consistently amazing Arts & Crafts label. In the band's debut LP, Young Galaxy creates a truly cosmic/spacey sound that lends itself perfectly to their name. While clearly drawing from influences in the classic rock genre, the band also seems to fall into the trap of relying too heavily on what is now an overused and extraordinarily basic indie rock sound. The result is an album that proves the band to be a talented group of individuals, but also one that hasn't quite hit their stride just yet.

Young Galaxy's debut, self-titled LP begins with what is arguably the strongest song on the album, "Swing Your Heartache." The song is an agonizing and bleak meditation on the life, filled with such "uplifting" lyrics as "We believe in time that you will see the frontier is misery." Though the song may falter a bit during the uninspired and cliche-ridden bridge, hearing the band harmonize "Come on babe, swing your heartache" never really gets old, even once the song crosses the 6-minute mark.

"No Matter How Hard You Try" is a largely-incomprehensible song with layer upon layer of instrumentation that at times can seem a bit overpowering. The vocals seem buried under everything else going on, and the song ultimately fails because of it. On the contrary, "Lazy Religion" is almost minimalistic in comparison. The song features airy guitars, synths, and pianos that bring out the vocals. A subtle harmony is utilized throughout the song that's particularly potent when the chorus rolls around ("I don't mind. Take what you want. It's a lazy religion"). The song is another high note for the album.

Unfortunately for Young Galaxy and those who will listen to this album, "Young Galaxy" features more lows than highs. The major flaw of the album is it's lack of "Wow" moments. The lyrics here are rarely poignant or meaningful, the music is utterly bland throughout, often sounding like a mix of every other so-so indie band out there today! I've listened to "Young Galxay" several times through and each time I walk away completely unaffected, unmoved, and entirely disappointed. Young Galaxy has talent, as clearly demonstrated in "Swing Your Heartache" and a few others on the album, but for a band on the Arts & Crafts label, my expectations were not met. "Young Galaxy" is a respectable first effort, but in the end it is still a disappointment.

Recommended for anyone interested in checking out a talented band with a bright future ahead of them, even if this album may contradict such a statement.

Key Tracks:
1. "Swing Your Heartache"
2. "Lazy Religion"
3. "Sun's Coming Up and My Plane's Going Down"
4. "Embers"

5 out of 10 Stars

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Sunday, June 10, 2007

You're Welcome

That's right! Not only is today my 23rd birthday, but it's also the day that I reached the 1,000 Helpful Votes landmark on To the 350 of you who disagree, HA! I still win!

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Saturday, June 09, 2007

Go News Go! - The Weekly News Recap

No really. That's all.

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Friday, June 08, 2007

5 Necessities For A Perfect Summer Soundtrack

What is a summer album? Beats me! The truth of thematter is, you just know one when you hear it. It could be The Beach Boys, maybe something less poppy but heavily influenced by California rock. Whatever it is, it has to be the perfect thing to rock in your 80s-style boombox when you're laid out on the beach with your friends, or the perfect album to play on your iPod when you're traveling through Europe or even mowing your lawn for your parents (a terrible, terrible tragedy by all means). To most of the world, Summer is just like the rest of the year...only hotter. But for all you college kids out there who just need some music to get you through the heat and hotties, here are my Top 5 recommended albums guaranteed to get your Summer going!

#5: Rilo Kiley: "The Execution of All Things" - It is less lo-fi than their debut, but not as emo as their third. Rilo Kiley's second studio album is the perfect fit for when you and your buddies are piled into your dirty El Camino headed to God knows where. The ladies love it, and as long as you have at least one or two hipster friends in tow you'll surely win some always-appreciated cred points.

#4: Of Montreal: "The Sunlandic Twins" - While you're away at school for the semester, your parents are busy huddled in an underground bunker devising the most cruel forms of manual labor that they can force upon you when you come home for the summer. So whether you're painting the house, building a deck, or mowing the lawn, Of Montreal's "The Sunlandic Twins" offers just enough sunny indie-pop goodness to take your mind off the fact that all your other friends are doing something infinitely more enjoyable. Besides, you can totally empathize with Kevin Barnes when he says "Let's pretend we're in Antarctica!" Believe me, when July rolls around in Texas, Antarctica is my #1 vacation destination. Now if only I wasn't poor.

#3: Incubus: "Morning View" - Of all of Incubus' albums, none feel more California-y than "Morning View," and that's a good thing! This is one you want to pump out with your buddies that don't wear chick pants or invest their money in hair products. The perfect album to play when you are all outside, grilling up hamburgers or tossing the football. It's not the manliest of albums, to be sure. But it's just manly enough.

#2: The Aliens: "Astronomy for Dogs" - This album will be released in the United States on June 19th, and if there was ever an album that would define the Summer of 2007 this would be it! Drawing from influences like The Beach Boys, the Bee Gees, and tons of other artists from before you were born, "Astronomy for Dogs" is a near-carefree album that is the perfect accompaniment to basically any activity that you could ever think of doing in the summer months. Unless of course sitting in a dark room all day writing poetry is your idea of a jam-up summer activity. In that case, I would recommend Portishead and/or anti-depressants.

#1: Rooney: "Rooney" - Rooney's self-titled debut is just waiting to be dusted off this summer! While it is clearly a rip-off of The Beach Boys sunny California pop, Rooney respectfully ganks the style and makes it something entirely their own. For a lot of college kids, summer is about going to the beach working on the tan. If you somehow find yourself engaged in such aterribly dull situation as this, "Rooney" is the perfect album to take your mind of the fact that you're, in all likelihood, giving yourself skin cancer for the sake of "beauty." Enjoy the melanoma, pawn. I'll be doing something more productive, like pouring hours upon hours into video games. *sigh* O summer!

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Thursday, June 07, 2007

Harmonix Says, "Insert Song Here"

A few weeks back I posted my Top 5 tracks that should be in Guitar Hero. Today, I may be getting the next best thing. On Harmonix's official Rock Band website, they've added a feature where you can suggest your 4 most wanted songs and if enough people feel the same way, your songs may just make it in the final game. Head over to this website and do good by me. The tracks I've selected are:

"Hysteria" by Muse
"Carry the Zero" by Built to Spill
"Paranoid Android" by Radiohead
"Hooray, It's L.A." by Blindside

If you'd like to be my for-real friend, go vote for the same thing. Then we'll talk.

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Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Video of the Week - Week 22

Viva Voce - "From the Devil Himself" from the album "Get Yr Blood Sucked Out"

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Saturday, June 02, 2007

Go News Go! - The Weekly News Recap

Hmm, what do we have here?


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Friday, June 01, 2007

Album of the Month: May 2007

Bjork: "Volta"

After waiting 3 years for a sequel to "Medulla," Bjork finally graced us with another album. Though it could be viewed as a letdown when you consider the album it was forced to follow, "Volta" is still a magnificent work of art. Bjork's melodies are harder to follow this time around, but she seems more passionate than ever, even resorting to screaming on "Declare Independence." There are a few songs that could be skipped over, and probably will be down the line, but they are all brilliant and worth a listen. "Earth Intruders" is probably the closest Bjork will come to a "club banger" while "Dull Flame of Desire" is a truly flawless duet. Whatever your specific tastes are, if you're a fan of Bjork you'll find something to love here. It is for this reason that "Volta" is the album of the month. That and the fact that every other album released in May kinda sucked. What are ya' gonna do?

Runner-Up: Sleepytime Gorilla Musem: "In Glorious Times"

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Top 5 Sufjan Stevens Songs

This is quite a difficult list to compile, considering the vast library of Sufjan Stevens, most of which is compiled of flawless songs. To narrow that wide field into just 5 songs is no easy undertaking. But, as always, your friendly neighborhood music snob is here to do exactly that. So sit back in that chair of yours, sip on your coffee or whatever the hell you're drinking and prepare to be amazed as I bring to you the top 5 Sufjan Stevens songs.#5: "Lord God Bird" from an NPR special - This is probably not a song you'd expect to be on my list, primarily because you've probably never even heard of it. A few years back, Sufjan wrote a song about the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker, a bird once thougth to be extinct, now rediscovered in rural Arkansas. The song is about how this small creature, nicknamed the "Lord God Bird," has changed the small town in which it was rediscovered for the better. It is a beautiful song that you absolutely must hear if you haven't yet! When Sufjan played this one live, everyone stood around thinking "What the hell is this?" I stood in awe as I listened to one of my favorite Sufjan songs. There's nothing like being an elitist.

#4: "Flint" from the album "Greetings From Michigan: The Great Lakes State" - The album opener on "Michigan" is a heartbreakingly beautiful song and a brilliant example of how Sufjan is at his best when he's not self-indulging in multi-instrumentationalism (my word, don't steal it). With just a piano and his soft vocals, "Flint" is one of the best tracks on "Michigan." I covered it once, but there's absolutely no way I could do it justice...and I'm amazing! It's just that good.

#3: "The Transfiguration" from the album "Seven Swans" - The closing track on "Seven Swans" is one of my favorite Sufjan songs ever, mostly because it is one of the most complex tracks of his to date. At the same time, however, it feels very minimalistic. It begins with Sufjan simply strumming on his banjo like Doug ("One little voice is calling me, calling me."), but it continually builds upon this simple platform; adding vocal harmonies and denser instrumentation. It is beautiful...really.

#2: "For the Widows in Paradise, For the Fatherless in Ypsilanti" from the album "Greetings From Michigan: The Great Lakes State" - Beats me how to actually pronounce "Ypsilanti," all I know is that this song is one of Sufjan's most insightful and uplifting. By the time the song comes to a close, you'll undoubtedly be moved as Sufjan repeats "I did everything for you" over and over again; beating it into your heart until it breaks. Like that metaphor? I did too. Like every other song on this list, this song is not one of Sufjan's busiest compositions. It is simple, and it is lovely.

#1: "John Wayne Gacy" from the album "Come On, Feel the Illinoise!" - Sufjan's tribute album to the state of Illinois is by far his most accomplished and well-rounded album thus far in his career. It may seem strange then to only list one song from that album on the list, but like I said earlier, it's tough to narrow the list down to only 5 songs. In the end, "John Wayne Gacy" is not only the best song on "Illinoise" but also Sufjan's best song overall. His heartfelt and compassionate look into the life of a serial killer, to whom no compassion should be awarded, is absolutely heartbreaking. In the song, he humanizes a monster and literally compares himself to the killer, noting that the two really aren't that different at their most basic levels ("In my best behavior I am really just like him. Look beneath the floorboards for the secrets I have hid"). It may not be the easiest song to listen to, but in the end it is one of the most rewarding songs to ever experience. Plain and simple, "John Wayne Gacy" single-handedly solidified Sufjan's standing at the top of my list of "Best Living Songwriters," but I suppose that list is for another Friday.

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