under construction! Don't be alarmed, new layout coming soon...yeah right

Friday, June 27, 2008

Poll Results, New Poll, Updates From Japan

I meant to write this before I left, but I simply ran out of time. I didn’t hurt that I had to leave a day earlier than I had anticipated. Always check your plane tickets. But I digress.

Concerning the poll last month it seems as if most of you good kids are willing to pay for something if you like it. Smart move by Radiohead. A few of you are actually trying to create a revolution so I throw kudos your way. And those cheap kids, I’ve been there before too but I still have to say, “tsk tsk” anyway.

There is a new poll up so let me know what you think and after my two-week vacation in Japan I will be back in California catching up on all those awesome things I missed like surfing and umm surfing. Radical dude… No but seriously, I have a slew of Wee Pop release reviews coming so stay tuned for that.

My sister and I in Japan three years ago.

Hitomi Yaida-“My Sweet Darlin’”

Sunday, June 22, 2008

MIX FOUR: Wellington, New Zealand

This foto is kind of misleading, weather-wise.

As my time in New Zealand comes to an end (literally I’m on a plane in less than six hours) I wanted to share with you all a mix of songs that best exemplified my time in the capitol city of Wellington.

Wellington is often described as a miniature version of San Francisco and even though I hate making those kinds of comparisons it is a relevant starting point. Extremely hilly, compact, windier than anything I could have imagined Wellington has its charms as being a hyper-cultured town that relishes in coffee and cigarettes by day and bars and cinema by night.

Some of you know that I haven’t had the best time here and coming from the suburbs to the big city was probably the hardest adjustment for me personally, harder than I could have anticipated. Sadly I don’t have the best memories of living in Wellington, but if you are touring New Zealand is worth a few days stay.

Flight Of The Conchords-“Inner City Pressure”

New Zealand’s own 4th greatest Folk parody Duo, Bret and Jemaine get their Pet Shop Boys on in this hilarious take on hard times in the city.

Bob Dylan-“Hard Times In New York Town”

Even though ‘ol Bobby D was singing about a different city, the things he’s singing about held true for how I felt coming into Wellington. Smart, sassy, a little funky and very observant, it’s a shame this wasn’t on his first album.

Bright Eyes-“The City Has Sex”

I admit I've been a little angsty and this early Bright Eyes kind of describes the later stages of my time here.

The Carpenters-“Rainy Days And Mondays”

I love Karen Carpenter and if this song isn’t the blues I don’t know what is anymore. Wellington doesn’t have the best weather so this tended to be pretty accurate.

Howard Shore-“The Passing of the Elves”

What is a Wellington mix without at least one Lord Of The Rings mention? This one fit the more serene qualities I felt while at the top of Mt. Victoria and in the forest surrounding it.

Casiotone For The Painfully Alone-“Toby take a bow”

After some initial disappointments this song became kind of a mantra. I feel stupid about it now, but this song really encapsulates the worst aspects of my experience.

The Diggs -“Careen”

I listened to this song a lot when I was roaming the city. I don’t really know what it means particularly, but it just matched my surroundings.

Scarlett Johansson-“Anywhere I Lay My Head”

Wellington has been my only home for the past five months and since I don’t have a room at either my mom or dad’s places I shuffle everything with me from apartment to apartment. I love Scarlett’s version because the atmosphere fits Wellington better than the New Orleans-esque original by Tom Waits.

Prince Edward Island -“I've Been To A City”

Lush, dizzying and somewhat harmonious this song by Prince Edward Island kind of captures my first impressions and immersion when I first stepped off the train in Wellington, sublime, beautiful and somewhat terrifying.

The Jesus And Mary Chain -“Just Like Honey”

Lost In Translation is sort of an existential shortcut for how my experience has been and this Jesus And Mary Chain song was in my head as soon as I even thought about coming here.

The view from my flat

Wellington is certainly a beautiful and slightly puzzling city that really caught me off guard. Even if I won’t look on this place as fondly as I wanted to I know I can’t forget it.

Wellington City site
Flight Of The Conchords on Myspace!
Bob Dylan site
Bright Eyes on Myspace!
The Carpenters on Wikipedia
Casiotone For The Painfully Alone on Myspace!
The Diggs on Myspace!
Scarlett Johansson on Myspace!
Prince Edward Island on Myspace!
The Jesus And Mary Chain on Myspace!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Existential Hero Will Release The "New Zealand Trilogy" On July 15th

A bit of self-promotion for my music project Existential Hero:

Sorry I've been keeping you waiting, some of you know bits and pieces already but I am happy to announce that July 15th I will be releasing THREE ALBUMS humorously dubbed the "New Zealand Trilogy". They are called:

The Storm Of The Century
The Great Sublime Melancholy!
Eating Grapes And Whale Bones

I did not think I was going to make three albums but in light of everything that has been going on in my life in the last five months it was probably inevitable.

The Existential Hero you know from A Winter's Tale Told In Spring and before has greatly evolved into a new fiercer and weirder form, but I think these albums are the best thing I've ever done and all three are products of great devotion and concentration. Instead of a compromise between my actual abilities and my vision, these albums truly achieve the sounds I had in my head.

I'll say a few words about the three albums to "set the scene" if you will.

As a note, Luke Of Secret Owl Society drew the cover art for all three albums and they look simply jaw-dropping.

All three albums will be dedicated to the late Heath Ledger.

The Storm Of The Century

The least conceptual out of the three, it mostly focuses on frustration and all its manifestations: ranting, venting, gossip, primal scream, etc.

The artists that most directly influenced the album are Casiotone For The Painfully Alone, Tom Waits, Neutral Milk Hotel and Patrick Ripoll.

1. You're Always Late
2. Waiting For The View
3. She Aches, She Makes, But Will She Break?
4. Amateur Alcoholic
5. But Reaching's All We're Meant To Do
6. I Want To Be In A Relationship So I Can Be Anti-Social
7. Clear Clear Clear
8. The Two Most Important People In The World
9. Deep Conversations
10. Ginny O
11. Guilty Song
12. You're Still Always Late
13. Meet In Japan
14. The Storm Of The Century

Tease Mp3:
"Deep Conversations"

The Great Sublime Melancholy!

The most conceptual, it deals with quiet sadness, deep introspection and longing as normal states of being. An environment to get lost in, think atmosphere and small details.

The artists that most directly influenced the album are Bob Dylan's Oh Mercy album, Chris Zabriskie, The Jesus & Mary Chain and The Motifs.

1. The Great Sublime Melancholy!
2. I Dream Of Antarctica
3. The Cherry Orchard
4. Goodbye Mr. Ledger
5. Piano Bashing
6. Until The Very Last Moment
7. Meant To Carry Me Along Intro
8. Meant To Carry Me Along
9. Static Waltz
10. Just Like Welly
11. Charlotte
12. A Skype Love Song
13. The Road Begins At The End Of The World
14. Slope Point

Tease Mp3:
"I Dream Of Antarctica"

Eating Grapes And Whale Bones

Certainly the most aggressive thing I've ever done, it is a refusal to stand still and a rejection of feigned modesty. It's about being great and taking the reigns of your life so no one else will. A recovery from disappointment and an energetic push forward into the future.

The artists that most directly influenced the album are Lil Wayne, Tinyfolk, The Roots and Outkast.

1. Arrested, Part 1
2. Arrested, Part 2
3. TV
4. Lyrical Sunday (Six Strings)
5. 48 Hour Competition
7. Do You Know What Film Theorists Are Like?
8. Underwater World
9. Fotography Girl
10. The Washer Ghost
11. Orientation
12. Narita International Airport
13. I'm Coming Home
14. Eating Grapes And Whale Bones

Tease Mp3:
"I'm Coming Home"

Think of the albums like this; there was a problem, I thought about it and then I made up my mind. The three albums represent these steps.

All three albums include a guest or two including Mandie Russell, Tinyfolk, The Top Grossing Films Of 1984 and more.

They are essentially done I'm just waiting for a few collaborators and I will be doing a bit of mastering when I return to the states.

They will be released for free on CLLCT of course, but I will be making some super fancy handmade copies for anyone who would like them.

In addition to these three albums, today I will be putting up an extended preview of the albums and my work in the last five months, Colin McKenzie's Dream: A Collection Of B-Sides. Demos, covers and b-sides, it'll be for all of you to get a taste of the "New Zealand Trilogy" and the processes I went through to create them.

1. Sinking Ship
2. Worldwide Travelin' Blues
3. I Heart Josh & Rebecca (Demo)
4. Oh Inspiration, Thou Has Forsaken Me! (Demo)
5. We Are All Artists (Demo)
6. Ghosts Never Die And Neither Will You! (Demo)
7. Down To The River And Pray (Allison Krauss)
8. You're Always Late (Piano Version)
9. I Don't Care About Love (Piano Version)
10. She's Holding On (Piano Version)
11. Just Around The Riverbend ("Pocahontas"/Alan Menken & Stephen Schwartz)
12. Jordan (Paul Baribeau)
13. Until The Very Last Moment (Demo)
14. I Want To Be In A Relationship So I Can Be Anti-Social (Demo)
15. The Two Most Important People In The World (Demo)
16. Sailing To Byzantium (W.B. Yeats)
17. The Motivation Song (Demo)
18. If You Want To Sing Out, Sing Out (Tinyfolk/Cat Stevens)
19. The Great Sublime Melancholy! (Demo)
20. Do You Know What FIlm Theorists Are Like? (Demo)
21. Lyrical Sunday (Six Strings) (Feat. Deep Owls) (Single Version)


AND there's more.

I am in the process of ordering buttons and t-shirts! That's right, I know some of you have been dying to get some Existential Hero swag so here's your chance.

So I hope you guys are excited as I am I cannot wait for all of you to hear these albums composed of blood, tears and lots of chai tea.

Existential Hero on Myspace!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Coldplay: Viva La Vida Or Death And All His Friends (2008)

I apologize for the tardiness of this review. After coming off a two week high of Tha Carter III and Sic Semper Equis Coldplay’s fourth album Viva La Vida Or Death And All His Friends was bound to disappoint.

There has been a large fuss before Viva La Vida’s release about how experimental it was going to be and even though Chris Martin and the boys do change things up a bit it is hardly as experimental as they contend let alone revolutionary.

There are three (or four) tracks on here that eschew the traditional (and Coldplay standard) verse -chorus-verse structuring but overall these songs, like “Lovers In Japan/Reign Of Love,” and “Yes/Chinese Sleep Chant,” end up feeling like multiple song bits crammed together arbitrarily. The only one that manages to work in my opinion is “42” that goes from Coldplay’s own “Trouble” morphing into a raucous Ok Computer-esque violin and guitar jam before jumping into a sweet pounding little pop number complete with handclaps and “oh ohh oh ohhhs.” Things come full circle before fading back into the Parachutes-reminiscent intro.

Chris Martin and crew come off best when working with “complete” songs such as “Viva La Vida” and “Violet Hill” even if the lyrics strive hard for universality and promote outmoded ideas of revolution. Did Chris Martin just learn about all this stuff now? The Iraq War has been going on since 2003! Where has he been? Oh that’s right he’s been fucking Gwyneth Paltrow; If it were me I’d ignore the outside world too. In all seriousness though, the "viral video" of “Violet Hill,” featuring found footage of our leaders and wars, is one of the best music videos I’ve seen in a long time and actually manages to say something new instead of just tossing around old activist slogans and imagery.

First single “Violet Hill” also is a good example of how Coldplay built up to the rooftop raving choruses and glorious anthems on previous albums like A Rush Of Blood To The Head. The closing track “Death And All His Friends” has the classic closing mantras but has no build up (the song is like thirty seconds I swear) so those moments of glory arrive undeserved. That’s not to say there aren’t some glorious highs on Viva La Vida.

“Lost!” is my favorite track on the album closely followed by “Strawberry Swing” for two different reasons. When I first heard Viva La Vida the only song that immediately grabbed me more than any other was “Lost!” because its confidence and awesome handclaps and Indian tabla stomp driven by an atmospheric organ and Jojnny Buckland’s guitar. “Strawberry Swing” is also a winner because unlike the rest of the album it seems a lot more intimate and relaxed, containing the endearing charm of Chris Martin that we’ve come to love without being overbearing. Some Afro drums and reverb-laden handclaps drive the beat, taut violins, subtle and discreet, and a sweet noodling reversed guitar circles around Chris Martin as he declares, “It’s such a perfect day…”

Viva La Vida Or Death And All His Friends is as hardly revolutionary as Coldplay would like to think, but once you get over the initial disappointment that rich multi-millionaire rock stars can’t change the world, you’re left with a decent album that shows that maybe rich multi-millionaire rock stars are at least thinking about it.

"Viral Video" for "Violet Hill"



Saturday, June 14, 2008

Tinyfolk: Sic Semper Equis (2008) + Part 2 Interview With Russ Woods

Hi folks, today I have Part 2 of my interview with the illustrious Russ Woods of Tinyfolk, the Lo-Fi-ish, Post-Easy Listening, formally-ukulele-wielding-now-Garageband commanding sensation. You can read Part 1 here. After the interview is my review of Sic Semper Equis. Let’s get it started.

Taken by Adam Zolkover

Foggy: Often your albums would have the phrase "and sometimes Meghan Lamb". Do you have to beg her to sing on your songs or is it more collaborative? Or does it fluctuate?

Russ: I begged her to throw some vocals on Sic Semper Equis. It didn't happen. I love making art with her, but basically we get really really silly when we write together. If you've ever watched any of the Forever Wolf music videos, you'll know what I mean. I think if we were trying to do more serious things together it would be difficult just because we think so differently about music and art. Our brains work very differently, and that's why I'm consistently so amazed at the music and art she makes. I could never do anything like that. I wouldn't even think to come up with something like that. Iron Like Nylon is one of my biggest influences, honestly, and I beg Meghan for feedback on every song I write. I think I like to play up the fact that she's in the band a lot, even though she doesn't actually participate much in the recording or writing of the songs, or some of the live shows. I like to play it up because I feel like I get a lot of ideas from her, and I feel like my exposure to her tastes in art and music has directed a lot of where Tinyfolk has gone in the past two years.

Foggy: Could you explain the Y2K theme a bit more?

Russ: Basically the theme of the album is exactly what is presented in the lyrics of “Thus Always Horses” and (to a lesser extent) “Animals are Stupid.” A forest full of animals panics because they hear about Y2K coming, and they work and work and work to fix it, and when it comes, nothing happens, because they don't have computers.

Unless you mean "Why2k?" in that case, I decided to use it because a) I think it's hilarious, b) I wanted to do something that was about nature, but sounded as "unnatural" as possible, i.e. with the voices of the animals all being auto-tuned and robotic, and the only acoustic, unprocessed song being the one that was about being a person. I wanted to do a lot of mixing of the "natural" and the "synthetic" as a means of sort of confusing the two, questioning the rhetoric of naturalization, blah blah blah. Pff. Fuck that. Y2K is funny. That's why I decided to write about it. There's a short story that l wrote about UFOs and Y2K that sort of bridges the gap, thematically, between Bill and Sic Semper Equis, and I definitely got some of the ideas for Sic Semper Equis from that story.

Foggy: Did you have any concepts of sounds you wanted to do while recording or did you mess around in Garageband until you found sounds you liked?

Russ: Basically I messed around in Garageband until I found things I liked. Sometimes I would basically realize the songs as they were and just replicate what was in my head (that was how it was with “Trampled Underhoof)” but most of the time it was me coming up with one part then adding another, then another. I knew that "The Forest Knows" was going to be a hip hop song when I made it, but Mike and Pat made up all their own lyrics, so I didn't have any input in those. When I made "O Deer Lord" I liked it so much that I decided that it would be the blueprint for how I was going to do the rest of the album, and everything else was me trying variations on that formula (with the exception of "If I Was a Person").

Foggy: Why auto-tune vocals?

Russ: I love hip-hop and r&b, and I thought it would be really cool to use an effect that's basically only commonly used in those genres and do something different with it. It's neat because as I was making this album I really fell in love with Lil' Wayne's music, and his newer stuff uses tons of autotune. Though I think Sic Semper Equis has more Auto-tune than Tha Carter III (the album he's dropping this summer) will. I sure do hope someone else compares Sic Semper Equis and Tha Carter III besides me.

Foggy: How do you think you'll perform the songs from Sic Semper Equis live if at all?

Russ: I'm trying to work something out, but I don't want to give it away quite yet, as I need to do some more fooling around first.

Foggy: You've said you like singing songs about animals more than people because “people are boring,” but why do you think people are boring?

Russ: I think people are boring because everyone writes about them. That's actually a huge oversimplification. I really don't think real live people are boring, but I think the way they're portrayed in songs takes for granted the fact that we're humans and they're humans and that's understood so lets relate to these people like they're humans without even thinking about it. I hope it makes people a bit more aware of the emotional and relational aspects of a song every time you realize that I'm talking about two horses and not two people. Not to mention I just think it's hilarious.

Foggy: Any particular reason for the animals you choose?

Russ: I wanted it to be all ungulates (hoofed mammals), but i ended up with "The Bird Of Y2K" as a song because Meghan came up with the title for that one, and it being her only tangible contribution to the album, i wanted to use it. Mike Lightning used all kinds of jungle animals that I didn't even think of for his rap song. Which is awesome and I'm totally cool with. I don't think any of the animals I talked about would actually live in the forest, except maybe the bird and the centaurs.

Taken by Adam Zolkover

Foggy: With the recent closures of many DIY labels Valiant Death, Pop Monster, Sanitary Records, Agriculture Records, etc. how do you think this will affect the Lo-Fi/DIY community?

Russ: I think you just listed every label I've ever put anything out on with the exception of Dance Machine Records and Ought Implies Can Records, both of whom went under shortly after releasing something by me. I think I'm cursed. I guess WeePOP! hasn't gone under yet. I should warn them. I think Tract Records has stopped making stuff too, so there goes that as well. I don't know about anyone else, but basically CLLCT has filled the void that record labels used to fill for me. I don't see any reason to put anything "real" out anymore, unless I'm doing some serious touring, in which case I guess I can make some homemade release or something. I guess if I was going to be doing a multiple-month tour or something I would probably want to have CDs from a label. I'm embracing the Internet more than I ever have right now, to the point where it almost feels quaint to even buy a CD.

Foggy: What's next for Tinyfolk?

Russ: Next for Tinyfolk is...well, I imagine the Brother Bird split will come out in a proper version. I've got some fragments of songs that I've been messing around with, but nothing fully finished since the Brother Bird split. I feel really content and comfortable with making songs on the computer now. It feels good to have so much new material out and circulating. I'm excited to see people's reactions. I love reading what response people have to things I've made. I'm hoping for full reviews for Sic Semper Equis and the Brother Bird split from Foggy Ruins of Time, for sure. I'm working on how I'll do the live thing. It'll be a lot different, but hopefully cool. I want to do some more hip-hop. I'm thinking maybe a Dead Dead Meat album or a Deep Owls solo album might happen at some point. I kind of just want to be Jib Kidder.

Foggy: One last question. As I get closer and closer to graduating college the more tired I am at doing what I love as work. Do you think it'd be better to have a job you like, but reserve what you love as hobby?

Russ: I think the best thing to do is to have a lot of things that you do, all of which you love to some degree. I have no idea if I will love my job as a librarian once I finish library science school. I hope that I will. But, if it's just something that I do and am indifferent to, that's a success as far as I'm concerned, because there are lots of things that make me happy. I think if some people didn't make a living doing art or music or whatever, then we'd have about a tenth of the wonderful art that we have. I guess for me I just don't want to do something where I feel like I have to be constantly pushing to get ahead. I don't want to have to be competing with everyone all the time. Maybe sometimes I want to work hard and get recognized for it, both in my job and in my hobbies, but I don't want to feel like it's always something I have to do instead of something I want to do. A routine job is great for that kind of thing, and that, more than anything is what I'm hoping for right now. Maybe I'll change my mind. Maybe I'm naive.

I think it was obvious that I was going to love this record, but really it wasn’t that easy. I will spill a little secret.

When I was first introduced to Lo-Fi music (Watercolor Paintings, Blanketarms, Tinyfolk, Super Famicom, Redbear., etc.) I liked Tinyfolk the least out of all of them. I had “Love Is A Thing,” “Seasonal Anxieties,” a demo of “She Wore Antlers,” and Caj’s duet with Russ, “Let’s Date.” I remember making Lo-Fi mix CDs before I had ever bought one off of any artist (just Myspace downloads). And although I liked “Love Is A Thing” a lot, none of the others compelled me to take notice of Tinyfolk in any other way than his cute voice and ukulele.

Then funnily enough in June 2007 I had a chance play a show in Santa Barbara with him, Real Live Tigers, Jon Crocker and A Lime Tree. His performance coupled with the song “Desperation” (off of "Platapeasawallaland") made me rethink Tinyfolk and I began to understand the animal-centric, but still very intimate approach.

And now a year later, after other artists’ outputs decreased to a trickle, gone defunct or are in hiding, Tinyfolk, Russ Woods (and sometimes Meghan Lamb), sets the bar for where music is going and the opens the door to limitless possibilities.

Initially I had hyped myself up to believe that Sic Semper Equis was going to be so great that their entire discography before it would become meaningless and that I was going to throw away my own baritone ukulele. Now, retrospectively this is a bit silly and no, Sic Semper Equis doesn’t make Tinyfolk’s older music invalid at all, it simply makes the listening experience all the more astonishing and gratifying.

Sic Semper Equis, a concept album about animals fearing Y2K is more relevant than anything he’s ever done. Where singing about animals at times was a novelty, “Antlers” or a really clever “If I Were An Owl,” on Sic Semper Equis Russ infuses self-awareness within these stories that adds gravity while also being humorous and incredibly insightful. The opener, and reminiscently titled, “If I Was A Person,” purposely creates a bridge from the “Old World” of Tinyfolk and leaves you unprepared for what will happen next. I almost wish Russ had kept the rest of the album a secret so that the transition from track 1 and 2 would be even more shocking. As it is, the song is quiet, portrait painting and shows Russ playing an intricate classical guitar while addressing the listener, “If I was a person/If I was a little boy/Would you hear my story/Would you hear my story now.”

Nothing could prepare you for the next song and possibly one of my favorite songs ever. “Thus Always Horses” is a mega-epic and quite possibly the most beautiful thing Russ has ever written. It’s startlingly punchy for being a slow, almost R&B ballad. It is melancholy and hilarious while driving consciousness into your brain like a rocket. The beat is meticulous and melancholy, the piano subtle but insistent and Russ’s Auto-tune vocals are haunting. The song serves the function of a Chorus in context of the album, setting a summary of what’s to come.

But how do you follow up that? Russ pushes us further into the narrative of the world with the Phillip Glass-eque instrumental, “Bird Of Y2K” that gets more beautiful and more resonant each time I hear it. The flute is the voice of a bird, like the angel Gabriel, signaling the animals and spilling prophecy upon them.

All the songs on the album are beautifully articulated using only Apple’s Garageband as a source of instrumentation. From the beautiful piano plucking of “What Will Become of Our Poor Foal If He is Born into a Post-Technology World?” to the baroque cries of anguish on “Centaur Work Song” and “Cry Of The Centaurs” to the punk euphoria of “Little Goat” (containing one of the best lines on the album, “I know that people often don’t think things through/Horses are this way too.”), Sic Semper Equis is easily Tinyfolk’s most diverse album to date. But, it only gets stranger as the millennium approaches.

“The Forest Knows,” featuring MC Mike Lightning and Redbear. is perhaps the only song that is hampered by the effects that Tinyfolk has laid out. It’s a little hard to hear all three artists’ vocals clearly in the mix. With that said, it’s a cool hip hop track that allows for a little breathing room before the more chaotic second half of Sic Semper Equis.

On “Oh Deer Lord, Deliver Us From Y2K,” Tinyfolk’s most tension-filled song, the animals are going crazy as the fear consumes them all. “New Year’s Eve pt. 1” loses all voice completely with the exception of an eerily distorted sampled “da da da.” On Russ's cover of Prince’s “1999,” this previously orgiastic declaration of the apocalypse has been transformed into an unrelenting funeral march. When he sings, “I was dreaming when I wrote this/Forgive me if it goes astray,” it no longer sounds like a sexual plea; it sounds like a threat.

After listening to “New Year’s Eve pt. 2,” I was a little let down. Sure it’s wacky and danceable, but it was anti-climatic considering the build before it. And that’s exactly it; the deflated experience is perfectly articulated in the brilliant closer, tied for second place as my favorite song on the album, “Animals Are Stupid.” Y2K didn’t happen, the fanfare was for nothing and as such, how could we expect an epic, cathartic ending. Well, “Animals Are Stupid” is cathartic for a different reason. Russ poses this question, “What’ll we do when/ our screens all turn blue and/What will we say when/Y2K happens?” Yes it didn’t happen, but Y2K could stand for anything here. What will happen when everything we rely upon, family, friends, technology, our own sense of self, etc. disappears?

Sic Semper Equis ends with another question, “How could we be so stupid?” Constantly and consistently in our everyday lives we humans, who are capable of such brilliance and kindness, find ourselves failing to live up to our potential. We cheat, we lie, we act afraid, we act lazy, we refuse to care, we ignore, and we get jealous; we are irrational beings who constantly shoot ourselves in the foot. Yet, we are still here breathing and living despite all our efforts. Sic Semper Equis’s reframing of these issues within a harrowing story of animals in a panic about the collapse of technology says more about who we are now than anything previously and is a confident, brilliantly crafted, humanist and wonderfully resounding work from Tinyfolk. It is by no means perfect, but looking at the material with which Russ had to work with, it comes pretty darn close.

"Thus Always Horses"

Download Sic Semper Equis on CLLCT
Tinyfolk on Myspace!
Articles/Reviews of Tinyfolk on Foggy Ruins Of Time
Video of my cover of "Thus Always Horses"

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Lil Wayne: Tha Carter III (2008)

I am probably one of the least qualified critics to talk about Rap and Hip hop much less Lil Wayne, but lately I’ve discovered some amazing rappers, singers and producers in these genres and I’m excited to be exploring this new territory (Like when I discovered Dylan or Lo-Fi music).

Lil Wayne, the hardest working rapper in Hip hop today, is called by some (including himself) to be the greatest rapper alive and on Tha Carter III he gets pretty damn close to proving it, but he doesn’t need anyone’s confirmation anyway right?

I’ve read (as far as I know) almost every early review of Tha Carter III and the consensus is so totally “fucked up” I cannot really find a reference point to know what is considered “great,” “good,” or “bad” about this album. It’s all over the map and as such my favorites will be different from others out there (just as every reviewers favorites are as well).

Lil Wayne refuses to be pegged down and that may be why Tha Carter III is completely and utterly scatterbrained, surreal and anti-climatic. Instead of closing with the brilliantly Kanye West produced, “Let The Beat Build,” Weezy ends on a not-so-completely self-indulgent but fascinating rant, “DontGetIt (Misunderstood),” on everything from crack cocaine handling laws to sex offenders to Al Sharpton. He’s completely postmodern in his deconstruction of the album format. Hell, there are probably a dozen different track lists out there right now anyway.

Take for example, the opener “3Peat,” sure it opens with all kinds of declarations about how great he is and how this album is going to be great, but really it's a slow burning track filled with strings and a melancholy synth line. He nearly breaks down completely by the end, wrenching his voice. And then “Mr. Carter” comes next which could work classically as an opener, featuring Jay-Z, but, it isn’t because it’s too cathartic to be an opener and is contextualized here as more of a lyrical Sunday. It’s two big rappers mediating and responding to their own success. Plus it has one of my favorite sets of lines on the album with Weezy declaring:

"Man, I got Summer hating on me cause I'm hotter than the sun
Got Spring hating on me cause I ain't never sprung
Winter hating on me cause I'm colder than ya'll
And I would never, I would never, I would never Fall
I'm being hated on by the seasons
So fuck ya'll who hating for no reason!"

The sheer diversity on Tha Carter III is astonishing. From the club bangers like “Got Money” (Featuring who else but T-Pain) and “Lollipop” to serious mediators like “Tie My Hands” and “Shoot Me Down” to just plain bizarre with “Phone Home” (Read, “I am a Martian”) and the David Banner produced “La La.”

The hit single “Lollipop,” is such a strange, but perfect song. It exemplifies everything subversive and crazy about Lil Wayne and Tha Carter III. On the surface it appears to be a traditional Hip hop fluff song with a nice hook and even a references other fun Hip hop songs. It even has the recently popular Auto-tune effect, which I fucking love, but the way he uses it is completely different than the way say, someone like T-Pain or Chris Brown uses it. It isn’t smooth; it enhances the quirkiness and originality of Weezy’s voice. The material itself is extremely sexual, but not in the way that most Hip hop songs present themselves. Lil Wayne isn’t singing machismo sexual colloquialisms; the words are intense, intimate, devoid of bragging/“playing to the crowd.” I’m not saying he’s singing about true love either, but “Lollipop” is much less sexist and degrading than say the Sisqó’s “Thong Song.” Also the fact that the only guest on the song, Static Major (R.I.P), died two weeks before the song was released adds another strange element, completely unexpected. Oh and on the video version of the song, Lil Wayne plays guitar. Far out.

In the end what I like most about Lil Wayne is his playfulness. In songs you can hear him constantly laughing, giggling, cracking up, he lives and breathes music and is having such a joyous time doing what he does best. Tha Carter III might throw people all out of sorts, but if you can't accept that you just ain’t having any fun.

"Lollipop" video:

Lil Wayne-"Let The Beat Build"

Lil Wayne on Myspace!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Alan Wilkis: Babies Dream Big (2008)

Alan Wilkis’s new record Babies Dream Big is a fun cheesy record that isn’t afraid to wear its influences on its sleeve. Although I must say upfront that the album cover is horrendous, don’t let it deter you from the goodness inside.

First and foremost Wilkis appeals greatly to my love of the falsetto and on the first few tracks like “I’m Famous” and “Milk And Cookies” he clearly puts his all into his self-described “white-boy soul.” It’s in this latter track that Wilkis gets particularly funky with a marching rhythm complete with processed handclaps (a must of course). He mixes things up with a little renaissance fair-esque keyboard breakdown that goes by all too quickly.

Lyrically, Babies Dream Big leaves me desiring a bit more than just simple romantic clichés such as, “I wanna know/ Why you caused me this pain/Feels like I’m drowning/The memories are staid,” on “I Wanna Know.” However Wilkis makes up for this lyrical shortage in pure unrequited sincerity and vocal dexterity.

Props to Wilkis for making a song that has a rap section featuring Neptune, God of the Sea. This song, “In My Dreams,” is my favorite track on Babies Dream Big. Starting with a jittery 8-bit beat and Wilkis half-rapping/half singing, the song transforms into a funkadelic version of “Octopus’s Garden” with the Neptune rap that is so hilarious and wonderful.

“Girls On Bikes” probably epitomizes Alan Wilkis perfectly. Slithering in and out of various styles from the hard rocking intro and bridges to the sweet melodic pop of the verses and chorus that has Wilkis declaring (with vocoder-laden background vocals singing along), “If I only I could ride a bicycle/I would ride along with them/ It would be beautiful.” Then out of nowhere the song builds into an epic prog-rock breakdown (breakout?) before rocketing back to the sweet chorus and finally Wilkis whisks us out on a chugging rock outro. It is quite an exhilarating experience.

Even with my slight misgivings towards Wilkis’s lyrical ability, don’t think that could deter you from finding this record enjoyable. His sincerity and his ability to make us on smile Babies Dream Big is infectious and life-affirming. It’ll make you want to dance too.

Alan Wilkis-"In My Dreams"

Alan Wilkis on Myspace!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Weezer: Weezer (Red Album) (2008)

Honestly, I like Weezer’s new album, dubbed The Red Album, more than I should.

But, most of the album is uncompromisingly bland. From the generic riffs of “Everybody Get Dangerous” and “Dreamin’” to the embarrassingly silly tough man voice on “Cold Dark World,” Rivers, Brian, Pat and Scott sound as if they are trying to make the worst album of all time. I honestly laughed the first time I listened to “Heart Songs,” Cuomo’s name-dropping ode to all that inspired him.

And yet, I cannot help myself; I keep listening to The Red Album. The lead single “Pork And Beans” eventually won me over with the hilarious music video and forcefully catchy riff. And for all of the inane lyrics and forced universalities that Cuomo has been shoving on us since The Green Album, “Troublemaker” offers one line that rings as true as anything on Pinkerton, “And I will learn by studying the lessons in my dreams.” Hell even “Heart Songs” started to get to me after awhile. Damn that melody.

However, the biggest praise I can give Cuomo and the boys here is for the song “The Greatest Man That Ever Lived (Variations On A Shaker Hymn).” Nearing six minutes long and over ten bazillion different style changes within that six minutes, Weezer finally fulfills the grandiosity that was first promised on “Undone (The Sweater Song).” It is so utterly ridiculous and the rap breakdown near the end is actually funny with Cuomo preaching,

“Somebody said all the worlds is stage,
And each of us is a player.
That’s what I’ve been tryin to tell you.
In Act 1 I was struggling to survive.
Nobody wanted my action dead or alive.
Act 2, I hit the big time.
And bodies be all up on my behind.
And I can’t help myself because I was born to shine.
And if you don’t like it, you can shove it.
But you don’t like it, you love it.
So I’ll be up here in a rage,
’Til they bring the curtain down on the stage.”

So bad, it’s good. I don’t know if Cuomo is taking a piss out of all us or if he is actually being serious. My intuition says the latter, but I guess it really doesn’t matter at this point.

I guess I should apologize, but hell, Weezer’s Red Album is something I find myself enjoying more and more with each listen and I guess that really speaks for itself more than anything else.

Video for "Pork And Beans"

Weezer-“The Greatest Man That Ever Lived (Variations On A Shaker Hymn)”


Monday, June 2, 2008

Everyone Except Me: Sidewalks (2008)

I don’t spend a lot of time listening to accusatory music. Who knows, maybe it is because I could be one of the accused. So when I first heard Everyone Except Me’s (a moniker for New Jersey’s Michelle Antisocial) second EP on ACOSM Records, Sidewalks, I was a bit turned off.

“iPod Ears” being the prime example of a sort of self-righteousness that is on the same coin as the type of people Michelle is singing against. I’ve been listening to Everyone Except Me on my iPod, what does that say about me?

Maybe I’m being grumpy, but it’s been difficult trying to tackle this record. Reading more about Michelle and listening to the songs over and over I have started to get a better feel for where she’s coming from. And it’s understandable to want to rail against the man, but things are a bit more complex than making generalizations about men in suits, rich kids, etc.

Sidewalks comes off best when she turns the guns on herself as on “Don’t Feed The Hobos.” More nuanced and subtle, this tale of the street is humorous/ironic and it allows Michelle’s lovely voice to shine.

And that’s the thing, Sidewalks is a wonderful record, Michelle’s voice is something unexpected in the folk-punk world and it’s a nice change of pace than usual gruff shouters. On “The Preacher And The Slave” Michelle and I align in our hatred towards organized religion in a hilarious manner as she shouts with a chorus, “You’ll get pie in the sky when you die/That’s a lie!”

My disillusionment with the whole protest/activist movement has kind of colored my experiences when I first approached Everyone Except Me’s Sidewalks, but really, don’t let my old man politics get in the way of a wonderfully sincere album that’ll get the blood boiling and the fist pumping.

Everyone Except Me-"The Preacher And The Slave"

Everyone Except Me on Myspace!
Order Sidewalks from ACOSM Records today!

The Roaring Nineties (2008)

Put together by CLLCT’s Secret Chief (Luke!), better known by most as Secret Owl Society, this Lo-Fi compilation, The Roaring Nineties, covering the greatest hits of the 90s, is like most compilations, brimming with some amazing songs, some good and some bad. To keep this two-disc, twenty-six track beast at bay, I’ll just describe some of my favorites and mention a few others.

The Brooke (a tiny ocean) has graced us with two (that’s right) two awesome covers, her cover of Oasis’s “Wonderwall” being my favorite. Just an acoustic guitar and her dream-like voice, she manages to recontextualize this song, not in its sound or delivery, but in its emotional impact. It hits almost ten times harder than it did originally.

Shelby Sifers, along with help from the Sarcastic Dharma Society, cover Del Amitri’s “Roll To Me” a song I remember instantly, but don’t ever recall the original band’s name (or even the song title). Shelby manages to cover some new ground, articulating her voice in ways that sound more down-to-earth than ever before. It’s sweet and gives us a glimpse into an alternate universe where she would be selling millions of albums and the world was a better place.

Tinyfolk’s cover of the Elton John classic from the hit Disney film The Lion King, “Can You Feel The Love Tonight,” starts off a bit slow, but the Usher-influenced ending is totally perfect. If you like Bill and Valley Forge era Tinyfolk, this is a good reflection of that style with a hip-hop twist.

Dustin And The Furniture’s take on Third Eye Blind’s “Semi-Charmed Life” was probably my most anticipated cover on The Roaring Nineties and it is everything I hoped it would be and more. It is acapella, focusing solely on Dustin’s “sleepy brown bear” voice. What more could you want?

Uggamugga’s acoustic cover of “Wannabe” by The Spice Girls is so hilariously cute. Sung almost off key and featuring boy/girl vocals, there is something so infectious happening here.

Fudge’s almost acapella cover of the Red Hot Chili Pepper’s “Suck My Kiss” is so ridiculous you have to love it. Featuring a chorus of kazoos, handclaps and vocal sound effects, it reminds me of Weird Al Yankovic at his most insane.

Perhaps the most stunning cover is SFIAS with The Anchorites’ cover of Donna Lewis’s only hit, “Love You Always Forever.” Essentially a wall of noise, they only hint at the melody lying deep within the chaos. It is beautiful, heartbreaking and sublime.

Now I’m sad to say that both of Patrick Ripoll’s covers didn’t do much for me, although the first bit of “How’s It Gonna Be (originally by Third Eye Blind)” is actually quite cool and very different for Patrick, it sort of teeters off aimlessly. I do like the nice use of the Amen Break though.

Both Fire Island, AK covers are a bit dreary and I wanted to like Manipulator Alligator’s cover of TLC’s “Waterfalls” more than I did.

But, I can see what some of the artists were doing here. Some were trying to take these glaring monuments of mainstream ideology and turn them into what they are, manufactured dribble. I think that’s taking the easy route. Many of these songs, no matter how manufactured still spoke to us and the best covers here are ones that reflect the deep loving or enjoyment we had of these songs back when we were growing up.

Sold to raise money to help maintain CLLCT, the amazing community of artists and musicians that ALL OF YOU should be a part of, it is now available to download for free! Enjoy!

The Roaring Nineties

The Brooke (a tiny ocean)'s site
Shelby Sifers on Myspace!
Tinyfolk on Myspace!
Dustin And The Furniture on Myspace!
Uggamugga on Myspace!
SFIAS on Last.fm!

*anyone know anything about Fudge? I can't seem to find anything on them.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Tissø Lake: Song Of The Black Dog (2008)

Like Rambling Nicholas Heron’s records, Tissø Lake’s Song Of The Black Dog reminds me of Europe. Not the bustling city centers of Paris or Berlin, but the hills of the Rhineland or villas in Spain or beaches in France. It’s Ian Humberstone’s voice, a stunning baritone that sends shivers down my spine and the impressive array of instruments (Classical guitar, accordion, real piano, horns, etc.) that make Song Of The Black Dog a wonderfully dreamy album.

“In The Dawn,” the opening track sets the mood and the very organic feeling of this whole album. I can sense these songs were recorded in real spaces, with histories and ghosts and happy memories. An accordion glides along with Ian’s voice as a piano lightly rains and a guitar that sounds like it’s made of rubber bands. The way he sings words like “Tongue” and “Melancholy” is absolutely sublime.

“A White Horse Gallops” has a very interesting guitar line that’ll play with your emotions and a hammering piano that’ll…well hammer home the mood before changing into a trembling wind, hinting at uncertainties. Containing some of the albums most evocative lyrics Ian sings, “I feared the thunderclaps could bury us whole alive/And this horse is the shape…of the hallows/It is the look of dark night…drawing in/And the scene reminded you of Russian movies/While I just felt the storm was a blanket on my skin.”

“In Antlers” is quite soulful and damn if he hasn’t created a new sound with his rubber band classical guitar. It also features some beautiful harmonies and clarinet (I think) that sound like sunrise. It is all too short really, but I love it.

At times Tissø Lake’s Song Of The Black can be a bit repetitive, but it is more like each song blends so well into the next that you’ll often drift through the entire album dreamily before you even realize it. Powerful stuff, dripping in nostalgia and worth every listen.

Tissø Lake-"In Antlers"

Tissø Lake on Myspace!
Tissø Lake.com
Buy Song Of The Black Dog on Mathilde Records

Little My: Little My’s Sixth (2008)

More cuteness awaits inside the liner notes

I was relatively less stressed out when I approached Little My’s new EP Little My’s Sixth than the last time. This is Wee Pop! Records first artist to have a second release on their wonderful little label and if anything Little My (from the UK as well no less) is a good representation of what Wee Pop! stands for.

As much as I enjoyed Little My’s Third, it felt a bit transparent, all fun and little feeling. Well I was happy to be taken aback with the first wash of slide guitar on “All But The Beeps Meep.” Featuring classic handclaps and Lo-Fi keyboards, hushed boy/girl vocals, it is the slide guitar that really adds something else to this song and gets hips shakin’ and hearts quakin’. Plus the song title is fucking adorable.

“Ruining Things Like Everything” has a mimic-inducing electric guitar and layered vocals that underscore the handclaps even more for such a seemingly relaxed song. By the end I wish I were in the band or at least at a live show so I could dance this one out. I bet it’s killer live.

As “Kicking People On Pavements” revs up I’d say it’s Twee on cocaine by its conclusion. And well…really that is all you need to know. Then “Excuse Me, It’s Springtime!” ends Little My’s Sixth nicely with a bit of positive acapella vibes and “La la las.”

For how twee-sterious Little My seem, on Little My’s Sixth they use their cuteness and pop sensibilities to hit a real emotional center that is very satisfying and sweet.

Little My-"All But The Beeps Meep"

Oh and Wee Pop! Records is turning ONE!

If you are anywhere in the UK, definitely make the trek to see all these great bands (including Little My!) and say hello to Camila and Thor for me! I so wish I had the TARDIS to make my way to London right now.

Little My on Myspace!
Little My's twee-sterious site
Wee Pop! Records
More details on the June 22nd show!