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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Pure Pop Matters

Hey, Solid State.

Burlington's beloved indie record haven, Pure Pop, has recently relaunched their website as a multi-contributor blog. The new site features news and commentary about music and the biz from your favorite record store clerks and a few non-staffers as well. The roster currently boasts some of B-town's more notable expert-types, including Aether Everywhere's Tanner McCuin, Herb "The Vanderpolls" Van der Poll and Adam "Nobody Fucks With The Jesus (Vanacho)" King, among others. The revamped site has only been up for about a month, so content is understandably sparse at the moment. But what is there makes for a pretty good read, especially on a dreary day like this one. McCuin's bit about this weekend's AE/Kranky Records showcase at The Bakery is particularly informative.

Check it out here.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Workin' Hard, Or Hardly Workin'?

With the end of the year quickly approaching — it's coming faster than you think, trust me — the backlog of local releases on my desk awaiting review is reaching epic proportions. To combat the problem and get as many reviews in print as we can before 2008 comes to a close, every issue in December we'll be doubling the number of CD reviews in the paper from two to — are you sitting down? — four! Four CD reviews! Ah-ha-ha! . . . sorry, long day.

Anyway, this week, we actually have three extra reviews running as sort of a waaaaay under the radar package of CDs that probably won't top anyone's "Best Of" lists this year, but still warrant some consideration. One such album is Babies Don't Have Hands from Burlington-based musical comedy act The Go Ahead And. As an unabashed "Weird Al" fan — his concert in Portland, ME a few years ago remains the best show I've ever seen. Period. — I found myself enjoying this disc, which seriously dares to be stupid, much more than I might be comfortable admitting in public. Good thing nobody reads this blog, right? Whew.

Anyway, one of my favorite cuts from the record, "Workin' Hard to be a Hipster," is actually a pretty nifty video as well. Though it might cause you to shoot PBR out of your nose . . .

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

1000 Bottles O' Beer

This. Is. Awesome.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

TVOTR's Scientific Method

If you’re just now discovering TV on the Radio, then you have not been properly seeking or scanning. This tantalizing original band has been the worst kept secret in contemporary music for the last half decade. Return to Cookie Mountain (2006) installed the group at the forefront of a new ultra modernism in American music, a cacophonous symphonic meld of clashing stylistic influences fastened on a pop-enthused frame. Dear Science is a stirring addition to their ever proliferating catalog; a stalwart continuation of the band’s hooking groove, and easily one of the best releases of the year.

The combustive escalation of record's jubilant introductory track “Halfway Home” immediately reasserts the bands harmonic originality, truly a piece by band not assuming a torch but dropping it to set ablaze a thrown that is rightfully theirs; "Is it not me?/Am I not culled into your clutch?/The words you spoke I know too much."1tvontheradio

The genius of TV on the Radio lies in their ability to melt down conventions of pop, rock and post-punk while retaining only elements they’re interested in, bombastically leaving traditional narratives, accompaniments and song constructions in their wake.

The chaotically danceable “Crying” is a somber pop song in disguise, a rebuke not on customary pop triflings, but a defiance of encroaching authoritarian repression, of "death under masthead," of "the fattening of vultures.” Croons lead singer Tunde Adebimpe, in his starkly original, raspy tenor, "time to take the wheel and the road from the masters." The catchy guitar lick on “Golden Age” blossoms into an orchestral and delightfully hybrid chorus, synth melding with brass, Adebimpe’s voice the calm in the storm.

The group’s hauntingly somber, distended melodies are on full display in “Family Tree,” where an escape from the record's strident din yields a strikingly stark sentimentality. A despairing set of weighty piano chords are the perfect accompaniment to the track's choral ebbs.

The exquisitely celestial “Love Dog” is a surefire candidate for song of the year. While it maintains the group’s charismatic harmonic ascent, it is a state of reverence and directness as yet unheard in their catalog.Much like the record itself, the song is a reckoning by a group whose creative ingenuity remains dominantly unparalleled in American music. "Curse me out in free verse/Wrap me up and reverse/This patience is a virtue/Until its silence burns you.”

Snow Balls

Happy winter, Solid State! (Now there's an oxymoron if ever there was one.)

It's funny how the first real snowfall of the year — though today may not exactly qualify — elicits such a wide variety of responses. Depending on your predisposition to cold weather, it's either a tasty gnar appetizer of pow-pow shredding to come or an abysmal portent of impending doom.

I'm afraid I fall on the latter end of the spectrum. I don't ski. I don't snowboard. The thought of snowshoeing makes me want to gouge my eyeballs out — or worse, someone else's. For me, winter is an exercise in endurance. How long can I stand the monotony of dark, dreary days, bone-rattling cold, icy sidewalks and the smug looks on the faces of sadistic snow bunnies who actually enjoy this shit, before I start turning into Jack Torrence from The Shining? But maybe I'm just being melodramatic.

Earlier today while standing outside the office, a co-worker marveled at the falling snow and cheerily proclaimed, "It's winter!" I was actually OK with this morning's snowfall, surprisingly enough — it ususally takes until mid-January for the real malaise to set in. But that's when it hit me. Though it may feel and look like it, it is not, in fact, winter. It's really still fall. Truth be told, by this time three or four months from now — or five, when it's "spring" —  a thirty degree day with light snow showers will feel like sweet relief. It'll be downright tropical by comparison. So we've got that going for us, which is nice.

If you're sensitive to cold as I am, it is important to fight back as best you can. The longer you hold on before giving in, the shorter winter will seem. And that fight can take many forms. For some, it means not breaking out the winter coat until after Christmas — gotta toughen up! For others, it means finding alternate means of entertainment — bowling, a reinvestment in reading, whiskey . . . sweet, sweet whiskey. But the most important thing — self-delusional fixes aside — is to remain lighthearted. Can't stress that enough.

So with levity in mind, I present to you, the soon-to-be snowbound denizens of Solid State, a collection of clips from The Found Footage Festival this Thursday at the Roxy. These clips are all real and have been collected over more than two decades — you can read more about the film in my column tomorrow or here.
So buck up, campers. Only 122 days until spring.


Found Footage Festival - Vol. 2 Trailer

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Fun with Interviewing

Hey, Solid State. How's it hangin'?

This evening I'm participating in a panel discussion at UVM put on by Alaina Janack from WRUV. The topic is "The Art of Interviewing" — or something along that line, anyway — and will feature some other pundit-types from various media sources. I'm typically not a huge fan of doing these types of things, especially at colleges. More often than not, you end up speaking to a room full of apathetic students who couldn't care less about who you are or anything you have to say. Or maybe I'm just a crappy public speaker . . . hmm. I guess there's a reason I make my living behind a keyboard. But I have high hopes for this one.

Interviewing has been one aspect of this job that has consistently scared the shit out of me. As such, it's a skill I've worked very hard at improving upon. But like any skill worth having, my interviewing prowess is a work in progress. So I'm really curious to see what other folks who regularly conduct interviews have to say about the subject, and also to field questions from kids just getting started. It should be pretty cool. And it's always good to have an opportunity to take a step back and speak objectively about what you do. It often helps to put things into perspective, at least for me.

On that note, this morning my editor sent me an interview with Village Voice music editor Rob Harvilla, conducted by Academy for Alternative Journalism fellow Ling Ma. The piece is part of an ongoing series published by the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies (AAN) called "How I Got the Story," which profiles writers who won first-place 2008 AltWeekly awards — our version of the Grammy, or at least the Juno. (Note: 7D writers Ken Picard and Suzanne Podheiser both won top prizes this year. This writer did not . . . sniff.) 

Harvilla has some provocative things to say about his approach to the job, and the distinct peculiarities of music criticism in general. Personally, I was shocked — and a little tickled — at how closely Harvilla's sentiments mirror my own. Check out the snippet below. And read the entire interview here. It's a good one.

LM: How have you seen your style of music criticism evolve over the years?

RH: Oh, I'd like to think I've improved. Honestly, it's pretty frivolous. I don't necessarily mean that in a bad way, but you know. 

LM: Something I've noticed in your reviews is that you do more than just evaluate how a band sounds; you also try to entertain the reader.
RH: I think that most people, like my parents, don't have much experience or interest in music criticism. For people like that, who just like music, they don't react so much to me saying, "It was fiery; it was energetic." They're not persuaded by adjectives. It's more engaging to them if you can describe the people, the atmosphere, and even the weather; if you can sort of set the scene. So I think it's more important to do that than straight criticism. 

LM: How do you describe sound?
RH: I think over time rock critics have come up with their own lexicon. There are words we use that no other person in any other profession uses. "Angular" is always a good one. Most of the time, what you do is just draw an outlandish analogy to some actual physical objects. It's a really strange form of creative writing, and it definitely lends itself to overwriting. It's a weird way to make a living.

No doubt, Rob. No doubt.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Aaaaaand We're Back!

Hey, Solid State! What the fuck is up? . . . hello? Anybody there? He-lloooo . . .

Oh man, I've done it again. I swear, it's really not my goal to singlehandedly kill the 7D music blog. But between Halloween, the Election, Bridget leaving, a lingering beast of a cold that keeps receding just enough to trick me into thinking I'm healthy and then shoots me down like Sarah Palin heli-hunting — I'm really gonna miss her, by the way — I . . . well, you know. We've been here before. I'm sorry. I'll change, baby, I swear. I mean it this time, really.

Anyway, during my most recent blogging hiatus, I spent a lot of time perusing the Internet, much more than usual,in fact. Not much else to do, frankly, when you're laid up in bed and it feels like a 40-pound hampster is clawing its way through your sinuses. In particular, I was looking for some new music resources. It's no secret that I'm not exactly a fan of Pitchfork — though I'll admit the sheer volume of info is impressive and occasionally helpful. And I'm growing weary of many of my old standbys. In short, I need a new drug.

My search was largely fruitless: a lot of the same info and opinions, recycled and regurgitated to death. However, I did stumble across one site in particular I really enjoyed and thought you folks might dig too. I was reading the New York Times "Paper Cuts" blog — which is actually about books. I like books — and found a peice written by British author and part-time musicologist Nick Hornby — see earlier comment: I like books, especially Hornby's.

The post is is Hornby's "2008 Playlist" and is, quite honestly, monumentally lame. Far be it from me to pass judgement on anyone else's personal taste; we all have our soft spots, to each their own, whatever floats your boat and so on. But the fact that his list-topper is Queen's "We Will Rock You" fairly reeks of early-onset fuddyduddyism. I'll concede aging hipster bonus points for Vetiver and Dr. Dog though. But the point here is not to tear down Hornby, who is among my top five most revered pop-culture scribes of the last 20 years . . . I'll stop now.

The point is that in his list, he references an MP3 blog called I Am Fuel, You Are Friends and cites it as a consistent source for cool new music. Damned if he's not right. The blog is maintained by a woman in Colorado Springs, CO who has really terrific taste — or at least taste that aligns fairly closely with my own, which is obviously amazing . . . ahem. Literally within 15 minutes of picking through her more recent posts, I identified four new albums I didn't know I wanted, but simply had to have. I ended up buying three of them, the best of the bunch being Chandeliers, the latest from Lucksmith-y Australian indie-pop outfit The Boat People. If like me, you're looking for a nifty new source for new tunes, I'd recommend checking it out.

Monday, November 03, 2008

O Canada!

Oh. My. God.

Watch more MSNBC Decision 08 videos on AOL Video

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