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Friday, March 28, 2008

Musicians I'm Afraid to Admit I Like

submitted by Deena

Ladies and gentleman, for your ridicule and general amusement, I give you...

Maroon 5

I was listening to pre-Maroon 5 in junior high, back when they were a garage pop band called Kara's Flowers. Their pop sensibilities haven't changed, but they did grow up a bit. Although I don't feel their sophomore effort, It Won't Be Soon Before Long, was as good as Songs About Jane, there is still something I find innately attractive about their tunes, whether it's the mild funk influences or the pillow-talk lyrics...yeah, probably the pillow talk lyrics.


Although they've had some huge U.S. hits like "A Little Respect" and "Chains of Love," nobody seems to remember this band from the 80s, let alone the fact that they're still together and making music. While the tunes that made them famous are, in a way, disposable synth-pop tunes, their albums contain a range of songs, both catchy and introspective. And as a singer, I appreciate the refined quality and range of Andy Bell's vocals.


For some reason I'm always ashamed at my fondness for AC/DC, though they certainly have enough credibility, having been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2003 and named 4th and 7th on VH1 and MTV's Best Hard Rock Act countdowns, respectively. To me, their songs are some of the best rock anthems of all time. I also think it's awesome that despite the death of lead singer Bon Scott in 1980 (after the release of Highway to Hell), the group jumped right back into the game to release their best-selling album of all--Back in Black.

Fall Out Boy

I suppose a lot of chicks like me dig these whiny pop-punkers because either A) we want some guy to pine over us like they do in their songs or B) we like that their voices are high enough that we can sing along. And though I've lost a lot of the hormonal angst of my youth, I appreciate these guys as a voice that a new generation of tweens can identify with. Bonus points for their clever, entertaining music videos.


Call me a sap, but the simple, sentimental songs of the Carpenters get me every time. Karen Carpenter's vocals should serve as a reminder to all aspiring Whitneys and Christinas that sometimes you don't need to sing screechingly high or with an excess of exaggerated runs in order to sound beautiful. Some of the best love songs of all time, and one of my favorite holiday songs--"Merry Christmas Darling."

I now stand with my back towards you, faithful readers, ready for my flogging...

Monday, March 24, 2008

Emerging Artist: Haale

Posted by Scott

Iranian-American Haale Gafori is an intriguing character. Initially, she struck me as a bit of an Amy Lee type, but her music is more adventurous, with dramatic strings and dark, moody melodies. 'Mystical' is a word that comes to mind when listening to songs like "Ay Dar Shekasteh."

She's played Bonnaroo and SXSW, and now she's on a national tour that will have her visiting Pittsburgh on Thursday at the Thunderbird Cafe (figures, my neighborhood bar would start hosting national acts right after I moved to the other side of town.)

Find Haale at www.myspace.com/haale.

MP3: Haale - Chenan Mastam
MP3: Haale - No Ceiling

Friday, March 21, 2008

It's all about the clubs

Posted by Scott

When Nelly's Hot in Herre came out in 2002, I despised that song. I thought it was the most stupid, pointless thing I'd ever heard.

And then one night I was in a club in NYC and Hot in Herre came on. Everyone went nuts, people were dancing like crazy, and in an instant I gained an appreciation for that song. I realized that sometimes a song might not have any particular artistic merit, but that's ok if its entire purpose is to make you dance.

I bring this up because the same thing has recently happened for me with Janet Jackson's latest, Feedback. Now, Janet's career has been dead since Nipplegate, and rightfully so - her songs have sucked since then.

My initial reaction to Feedback was that it struck me as a boring track with gratuitous (and lame) use of the vocoder effect. But then I heard it on a dance mix CD. Now I'm down with it. Even if the rest of the country isn't.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

March Indie Madness

PART 1, Posted by Scott

It's March Madness time. This time of year, I'm obsessed with tournament brackets. Not just the NCAA brackets, but any kind of brackets. You could put the names of 64 foods into a bracket, and I'd be determined to fill it out. I can't help myself.

So I was excited when I saw that the folks over at We Listen For You have created an indie rock March Madness bracket, with 64 bands competing for the prize. You can participate in their tourney, if you're so inclined, by emailing them your selections for each round. There's an unnecessarily complicated scoring system involved, but it's a cool idea nonetheless. The bracket is viewable here.

For me, I'd rather just fill the bracket out with my own personal choices. In round 1, I had two major upsets: #16 Liars took out #1 Magnetic Fields, and #15 The Hold Steady barely edged out #2 Daft Punk.

Completing the first three rounds results in the following Elite 8 matchups:
Radiohead (1) vs. New Pornographers (6)
The National (9) vs. The Hold Steady (15)
Bright Eyes (5) vs. Wilco (2)
White Stripes (1) vs. Cat Power (7)

My final four consists of Radiohead, The Hold Steady, Bright Eyes, and Cat Power, with Radiohead beating Bright Eyes to win the title.

Meanwhile, Architecture in Helsinki, Tokyo Police Club, and Gogol Bordello are sitting on the outside, wondering why they didn't get tourney invites. Perhaps someone should create an Indie NIT for those who were left out.

PART 2, Posted by Deena
Modern Rock Madness--Literally

Ah yes, I'd nearly forgotten about this tradition carried out by YRock since back in their Y100 days--the 5-day, 64-band Modern Rock Madness competition. And although everyone loves a good showdown, I can never quite seem to wrap my head around some of the details.

First off, sometimes several bands with members that overlap will be considered as one group:
Ben Folds/Five
The White Stripes/Raconteurs
The Smiths/Morrissey
Mike Doughty/Soul Coughing
Bob Mould/Husker Du/Sugar
Blur/Gorillaz/The Good, The Bad, and The Queen

Most of these combinations, in my opinion, aren't valid and I would vote in a completely different way if the groups were split up. My exceptions would probably be Ben Folds/Five and Mike Doughty/Soul Coughing, only because I equally enjoy the group and solo work in both instances. Now, pairing The White Stripes with The Raconteurs? It's no wonder they were beaten out by Tegan & Sara.

I suppose the competitors are pitted against each other randomly, but sometimes the pairing--and the results--are mind-boggling. Jimmy Eat World defeats The Smiths? Elvis Costello succumbs to Ben Folds? Every year I am disappointed in the lack of staying power demonstrated by the artists who make up the backbone of modern rock.

After poking around on the YRock message board, I've discovered that since its inception in 1997, Weezer has triumped over the most MRM competitions, with Green Day a close second. Other past winners include Bush (1997 must have been a bad year for music) and the Beastie Boys. Recent winners were 311 (2006) and Nine Inch Nails (2007). So basically, a handful of bands that got popular in the 90s dominate the competition year after year, which probably attests to their listening base of late 20-somethings feeling nostalgic.

The results and a PDF of the grid is available HERE for anyone who wants to follow along with the madness. My results with their grid would be as follows:

Elite 8:
The White Stripes (not counting the Raconteurs) vs. Beastie Boys
David Bowie vs. R.E.M.
The Ramones vs. The Clash
Garbage vs. Beck

Final Four:
The White Stripes vs. The Clash
David Bowie vs. Beck (I may be a Garbage fan but I give credit where credit is due)

The Showdown:
David Bowie vs. The Clash

The Win:
Bowie takes it in a 65-35 split. Ah yes, Bowie, the world is in your grasp...

Sunday, March 16, 2008

I'm a summer music festival whore

Posted by Scott

Last week I scored earlybird Lollapalooza tickets - for only $60 each instead of the usual $200. I wasn't sure I wanted to attend Lolla this year, but after getting tix for so cheap, and finding out later that day that Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails will be headlining, I'm in!

That brings the number of music festivals I'm attending this year to three. I'm also planning to attend Bonnaroo (Metallica, Kanye West, Sigur Ros) and day one of the All Points West Festival in New Jersey (Radiohead, CSS, the Go! Team). I'm still considering the Austin City Limits fest, since I have a friend who just moved to Austin. I think the Pitchfork Music Festival is out --unless the lineup blows me away.

I'm going a little overboard, but why not? Might as well do it now, while I'm relatively young, can afford it, and still have the desire to endure 90-degree afternoons to see 40 bands in a weekend.

After Lollapalooza and Austin City announce their complete lineups, I'll be back with a lengthy post critiquing all the festivals. For now, some recent music from a few summer festival bands:

MP3: Radiohead - All I Need
MP3: Nine Inch Nails - 8 Ghosts I
MP3: Sigur Ros - Hljomalind

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The latest from Tokyo Police Club

Posted by Scott

The first time I heard a Tokyo Police Club song, I thought, Wow, this is peppy! Then, I tracked down a bunch of other songs, and they were even peppier. Now, with the release of "In a Cave," the first track from their upcoming Saddle Creek debut Elephant Shell, it's become obvious... Tokyo Police Club are the peppiest damn rock band around. Their punchy, energetic two-and-a-half-minute songs bring me joy.

MP3: Tokyo Police Club - In a Cave

Video clip I took of the band playing "Nature of the Experiment" at Lollapalooza 2007:

Monday, March 10, 2008

Madonna's induction into the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame

Tonight, Madonna gets inducted into the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame. There has been some apparent outrage about her selection. Some misguided elitists are suggesting that she's not really a "rock" artist and therefore doesn't deserve induction.

This is an absurd argument. Everyone knows the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame isn't just for "rock" artists. Country, disco, and jazz acts have been enshrined. Last year, a hip hop act (Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five) got inducted. Let's be honest, it's not a "Rock N Roll" Hall of Fame, it's more of a general Music Hall of Fame, for all genres. And you can't have a Music Hall of Fame without Madonna. To suggest that her inclusion cheapens the Hall is preposterous. End of discussion.

To be honest, I'm more pained by the inclusion of John Mellencamp. Sure, he had a string of top 40 hits, but is he more worthy than Alice Cooper, Kiss, Heart, Steve Miller, and Genesis? He's just a modern-day Bob Seger. (Oh, wait, Seger's in the Hall too...)

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Women suck at entertaining

If you believe the country music industry, that is.

The 2008 Academy of Country Music Awards nominations just came out, and it's business as usual. The ACM awards are presented in the spring, the CMAs in the fall. They're technically run by two different groups, but they're pretty much the same. They both give out an Entertainer of the Year award. And every time, when the Entertainer of the Year nominees are announced, the contenders are four solo men, and one male group, usually Rascal Flatts or Brooks & Dunn.

Seriously, how could Carrie Underwood and Taylor Swift not have been nominated this year, with all the huge hits they've had? Or how about Miranda Lambert? Are we really supposed to believe they were lesser entertainers than George Strait and Rascal Flatts during the past 12 months?

For a woman to get an Entertainer of the Year nod, she has to do something superhuman. In the past 10 years or so that I've been paying attention, only a handful of women have gotten nominated: Shania Twain, Faith Hill, and the Dixie Chicks. In Shania's case, she had to sell 10+ million copies of two consecutive albums before she finally got recognized.

Interestingly, Shania and the Chicks both won the award, which seems to suggest that the general academy has no problem recognizing women. It's just the elite group that chooses the nominees, the Good Old Boys' network of Nashville, that is keeping the girls down.

I'm always amazed that more people don't get upset about this.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Spinal Tap - The Birth of 'Rocumentary'?

submitted by Deena

Last weekend I watched This Is Spinal Tap for the first time, a long overdue viewing on my part. This is the first in a line of Christopher Guest mockumentary films on everything from folk music to dog shows.

I thought it was great that all the actors (Harry Shearer, Christopher Guest, and Michael McKean) were competant musicians and played their own instruments for the film. Even funnier is that this originally ficticious band actually ended up going on tour and releasing several albums to boot, with songs like "Hell Hole," "Sex Farm," and the classic "Tonight I'm Gonna Rock You Tonight," which actually made it as an unlockable "secret" track on Guitar Hero II.

In the movie, Rob Reiner plays Marty DiBergi, a filmmaker who jumps at the chance to make "the documentary--the, if you will, ROCKumentary" of "England's loudest band."

Of course, there were documentaries about legitimate musicians well before this movie's release in 1984, but this is, perhaps, the first time the all-important term "rocumentary" was coined. And the all-knowing internet can't seem to confirm or deny my suspicions. Urban Dictionary, Word Origins, IMDB, even Wikipedia couldn't help me!

So I'm opening it up to you, faithful readers--can anyone trace the origin of "rocumentary" to a pre-Spinal Tap occurrence?

Monday, March 3, 2008

Brand new Madonna song with Justin Timberlake

The upcoming Madonna duet with Justin Timberlake has leaked out. Early reaction to "4 Minutes to Save the World" has been mixed, but the song has really grown on me after a few listens. I'm loving the horns. The hip-hop influenced track is produced by Timbaland.

Madonna hasn't hit #1 on Billboard since "Music" in 2000, but I'm betting this song returns her to the top of the charts.

To hear it, play this clip NOW because Warner Music has been pulling these videos down from YouTube and other sites all day. The link certainly won't work in a few hours.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

The notion of a David Gray Greatest Hits album

I was strolling through Barnes & Noble tonight when I happened upon a new Greatest Hits collection from British singer/songwriter David Gray. This perplexed me, because how many hits can David Gray rightfully claim? Certainly Babylon, possibly Please Forgive Me, and maybe Be Mine, if we're really getting creative with the definition of "hit." But that's it. It should be a 3-song sampler, not a full-length release. It should be given away for free at CoGo's with the purchase of a coffee, not sold for $15.99 at legitimate music stores.

I hate when artists do this - you'll see a band like Kajagoogoo put out a Greatest Hits collection, which always makes me scream. Come on, you had ONE HIT IN YOUR ENTIRE CAREERS! Country singers are the biggest offenders. A lot of them release Greatest Hits CDs after a mere two studio albums. I guarantee Taylor Swift puts out a Greatest Hits before she turns 20, in an effort to beat Leann Rimes's record for youngest artist with a hits collection (21).

Now, Gray actually does have enough good material to put together a satisfying compilation. I just object to calling it Greatest Hits. "The Best of David Gray" - I'd be fine with that title. Am I being too much of a semantics nut? Is this the equivalent of quarreling about the difference between "denounce" and "reject?"

Anyway, Gray's 2000 album White Ladder is a classic, easily one of my top five albums of this decade. The aforementioned Babylon and Please Forgive Me are terrific. This Year's Love and Nightblindness are both beautiful, gutwrenching ballads. And the cover of Soft Cell's Say Hello, Wave Goodbye is so good I didn't realize at the time that it was a cover.

Unfortunately, everything Gray has done since then has sucked. Those who would be interested in checking out David Gray should eschew the hits package and go with White Ladder.

YouTube: David Gray - This Year's Love