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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Disturbing Music Videos

submitted by Deena

For all your sleepless nights...

8 Tom Petty - Mary Jane's Last Dance, 1993
A mortician, played by Petty, hijacks the dead body of a beautiful woman from the morgue, dresses her up, dances around with her, then dumps her in the ocean. Creepiest part: the close-up on his plastic-gloved finger running over her lips.

7 The Cars - You Might Think, 1984
This pick isn't disturbing in the same sense as the other videos, but still--Rick Okasic's shrunken head and/or the entire shrunken band stalking some girl? Kinda gives me the jibblies. Creepiest part: Rick's head, on the body of an insect, licks its lips un-sexily while flying towards her face.

6 Soundgarden - Black Hole Sun, 1994

The apocalypse comes to super-happy suburbia in this video, which was full of exaggerated character archetypes and facial expressions. I actually started to dislike the song because of the video. Creepiest part: The woman trying to cut the fish towards the beginning of the video.

5 Radiohead - Paranoid Android, 1997
There is something unbelievably bleak about the lives of the characters depicted in this animated music video. Creepiest part: Fat, bald business man offers to rescue kid on top of lamp post and in doing so takes off his clothes to reveal a spiked black leather man-thong.

4 Robbie Williams - Rock DJ, 2000

To impress a bunch of indifferent, rollerskating supermodels, Robbie Williams performs an utterly revealing striptease--right down to the bone. Creepiest part: The supermodels appear turned on when he starts throwing bloody skin and muscle at them.

3 Queens of the Stone Age - Sick, Sick, Sick, 2007
Evil lady forces band to play while she eats dinner. Each time she rings a bell, a band member is taken away, and shortly afterwards we see her ravenously eating some kind of meat. Eeeeeew. Creepiest part: Watching the woman completely gorge herself by the end of the video.

Unfortunately, I couldn't readily find an embeddable link to this one, so you'll have to click through to YouTube for this one:

2 Tool - Prison Sex, 1994
Generally speaking, all of Tool's videos exude creepy, but I prefer this one, in which a scientist's half-made creation searches for its legs and comes across his master's failed experiments. Creepiest part: Pretty much the scientist--he looks like something out of Alien.

1 Aphex Twin - Come to Daddy, 1997
Richard D. James's face is disturbing by itself; duplicate his face on little children while "I want your soul" is screamed in the background, and I'm curled up in the corner in fear. Creepiest part: The emaciated...thing...that comes out of the TV.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

New Sigur Ros gobbledigook

People have been claiming for years that the music of Sigur Ros is gobbledigook, but now they're actually right.

Today Sigur Ros announced the June 24 release of their fifth album, Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust ("With a buzz in our ears we play endlessly"). The lead single, "Gobbledigook," is available via the band's website www.sigurros.com, where you can also view the video for the track, which features lots of pretty young people frolicking about in the nude.

Ironically, despite its title, this is probably the catchiest, most straightforward pop song the band has ever recorded. I am even more psyched than ever to see them at Bonnaroo.

MP3: Sigur Ros - Gobbledigook (Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust)


Thursday, May 22, 2008

DeVotchKa and Basia Bulat rock the Diesel

May 21, 2008

Diesel, Pittsburgh

Diesel likes to host emo bands and way-past-their-prime '90s rappers (coming next week - Naughty by Nature!), but tonight they presented real musicianship with two excellent pop acts, DeVotchKa and Basia Bulat.

Basia Bulat is an endearing Canadian pop-folkie who reminds me of Regina Spektor with an autoharp, or Feist with a smile on her face. She opened the show with an acapella number, an old gospel song called "Hush." That was a wise decision since it put the focus squarely on her sweet voice. Before long she moved on to the catchy "In the Night," which is shaping up as one of the best pop songs of the past several months. All it needs is an iPod commercial or an appearance on The O.C., and it's top ten material.

Basia's set was mostly up-tempo and energetic, a pleasant surprise since I expected more of tame performance. She played many of the best songs from her debut Oh, My Darling, including a brightened-up version of the slightly dark "Snakes and Ladders." The biggest crowd-pleaser ended up being the hand-clapping "I Was a Daughter."

I'm a latecomer to the Basia Bulat bandwagon, but I am totally on board.

As for DeVotchKa - I have to confess, I was a little disappointed when I found out they were from Denver. With all those Eastern European rhythms, I'd hoped they would've come from someplace a bit more exotic. And I've been ignoring them lately, in favor of similar bands with a more fun, party kind of vibe, like Gogol Bordello and Luminescent Orchestrii. DeVotchKa can be a bit more subtle, but as I was reminded tonight, with that subletly comes beauty.

Singer Nick Urata shined during the show's softer moments, but the climax came during a stretch where the string section carried the day. "How it Ends" was positively majestic, with Urata's vocals soaring over exquisite strings. The band closed with their Siouxsie & the Banshees cover "The Last Beat of My Heart." Not too shabby for some dudes from Denver.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Mike Ditka: Worst Rapper Ever

submitted by Deena

So today I happened across a music blog post that listed the "Top 25 Worst Rappers of All Time." Interesting people who had short-lived rap careers on the list included Shaquille O'Neal (I'd nearly forgotten about this), Brian Austen Green, Dee Dee Ramone, Mr. T, and Elvira, although I still haven't decided if it's fair to put these people in the same category as people who've made a career out of rapping like 2 Live Crew (#21), Will Smith (#8) and MC Hammer (#2).

Coming in at #25 was the Chicago Bears for their embarrassing "Super Bowl Shuffle" rap from 1985. However, I was disappointed to see that former Bears coach Mike Ditka had failed to make the top picks. This is a travesty. His "rap" group, the Grabowskis, were about the worst thing I've ever seen:

YouTube: The Grabowski Shuffle

Monday, May 19, 2008

My 5 favorite bands, May 2008

It's time for the usual rundown of my favorites...

At some point I may tire of the Dolls' simple piano-and-drum style, but it hasn't happened yet. Next month they release a collection of B-sides, No, Virginia..., featuring some of their well-known concert songs that had never been put to tape. It's quality stuff, especially the jangly first single "Night Reconnaissance." The band is going on tour again this summer, and later this year singer Amanda Palmer releases her solo debut.
MP3: Modern Moonlight (live 10-23-06)

They are the number one reason I purchased Bonnaroo tickets. Whether it's Icelandic, Hopelandic, or instrumental, Sigur Ros make some of the most breathtaking music in the world, and seeing Jonsi play the guitar with a violin bow is a beautiful thing.
MP3: Hljomalind (Hvarf-Heim)

I stand by my assertion that In Rainbows was massively overrated, but it's slowly growing on me, track by track. And the best part about Radiohead is their live show, which never fails to impress. They're playing a whole bunch of festivals this summer, so anyone who still hasn't seen them just isn't trying.
MP3: All I Need (In Rainbows)

I've liked Taylor ever since her cute debut single "Tim McGraw" two years ago. And though I knew she played guitar, I only recently became aware that she also writes her own songs. Playing an instrument and writing one's own material are quite rare in the country music world, especially for an 18-year-old girl. If this is the future of country music, I am all for it.
MP3: Our Song (Taylor Swift)

Last year they were this little band that bloggers adored, with just a 16-minute EP. Now they're signed to Saddle Creek, with a full-length debut, an American tour, national TV appearances, and the same peppy, 2-minute songs. The excellent Elephant Shell is likely to keep them on the road for the rest of the year.
MP3: In a Cave (Elephant Shell)

Others earning consideration: Madonna, Alison Krauss, New Pornographers

My 5 favorite bands, November 2007
My 5 favorite bands, May 2007

Friday, May 16, 2008

Seriously? Pittsburgh gets a music festival

And it's only a few blocks from my apartment! The New American Music Union Festival (or NAMUF, as those of us in the know refer to it) was announced today. Nobody had any idea it was coming... how did they keep this under wraps?

The festival was created by Anthony Kiedis with (gasp) American Eagle Outfitters. The lineup clearly isn't going to compete with any of the major summer festivals, but as Pittsburgh concerts go, this one is pretty amazing. Seeing Bob Dylan perform on the South Side is going to be pretty incredible. I'm not a fan of the Raconteurs or Gnarls Barkley, but Spoon and The Roots are great scores.

I have no earthly idea where they're going to put the stages - the South Side Works isn't big enough to hold something like this. Unless they do it over by the Steelers' practice facility further down the river...

Nonetheless, this is very exciting music news for our city... we're actually getting some summer concerts that aren't just country and classic rock!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Why I Love CDs (Sometimes)

submitted by Deena

I admit it--I'm an mp3 whore. My CD collection numbers remain stagnant for months while the number of gigs of music on my external hard drive grows almost weekly. I just can't seem to justify a CD purchase unless it's under ten bucks any more...guess I'm getting cheap in my old age.

But last week I picked up the new full-length release from Flight of the Conchords on a whim (to get an online order to qualify for free shipping), and boy am I glad I did...not because the music was remarkable (I'd heard it all from watching the show, though the album versions are all remastered), but because the packaging was simply top-notch.

Die-cut illustrations of Jemaine and Brett pop up at you when you open the CD. Look on the other side of the popup and the illustration shows them from the back, too.

The artwork, done by Tyler Stout, is quite clever. For instance, on first glance when you open the case, it appears that the cover image is printed in reverse on the inside; but when you look closely, it's actually a completely different illustration--the name of the band is the only thing that's backwards:

Plus, nestled in the folds of a packaging is a double-sided poster done by Stout as well.

They've already won for best comedy album for their 2007 EP "The Distant Future"--maybe this year holds a Best Packaging Grammy for FOTC. All I know is that if more CDs were packaged this thoughtfully, I might be more inclined to buy them.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Liars cancel Pittsburgh show at Diesel

Tonight was to have been the Liars’ first performance in Pittsburgh in several years. But it’s been canceled.

I am both disappointed and angry. First, the disappointed part. I saw the Liars at Club Laga when they played with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs ages ago. I wasn’t a huge fan at the time, although I remember being captivated by singer Angus Andrew’s stage presence.

In 2004, they released They Were Wrong, So We Drowned, a bizarre, experimental record that was the most universally panned release in recent music history. Rolling Stone gave it ½ star. Spin gave it an F. But I loved it - it was so bizarre and disturbing that I couldn’t stop listening.

I was excited later that year when the band set up a local show, but I never went. Either it was canceled, or I had another commitment – I can’t remember which. But the Liars have not been back since. That’s why I was psyched to see them tonight at Diesel.

Now, for the angry part. What I need to find out is why the show was cancelled. Was it due to poor ticket sales? Or had the band simply decided they didn’t want to play a club show in Pittsburgh for a couple hundred people while they’re in the middle of opening for Radiohead on a massive pavilion tour?

If it was the latter, I’m still disappointed, but I can understand. If it was the former, I’m going to flip out. See, here’s the thing: All small music venues in Pittsburgh sell tickets through local record stores like Dave’s Music Mine, Eide’s, Paul’s, etc. All venues, that is, except Diesel. Diesel makes its tickets available through Ticketmaster. Which means that fans are forced to pay the ridiculous service charges associated with that company.

I refuse to pay an $8 service charge on a $13 ticket. A 62% markup is where I draw the line.

I was going to wait and pay $15 at the door. I have a feeling there were a bunch of other people like me, who were planning on attending the Liars show but hadn’t purchased tickets yet because we were trying to avoid Ticketmaster.

If in fact Diesel sells tickets elsewhere, it needs to do a better job of publicizing this information.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Ain't got nobody I can call my shorty

May 10, 2008

Diesel, Pittsburgh

Bob Schneider is known for rowdy, rocking performances, but he began his latest Pittsburgh show with three quiet piano tunes, culminating with the poignant "Changing Your Mind."

"This concludes the Billy Joel portion of the show," said Schneider, before breaking out the guitar. For the next two hours, Schneider showed why is he one of the most under-appreciated singer-songwriters around, tearing through older songs from his extensive catalog and tracks from his latest DIY effort, When the Sun Breaks Down on the Moon.

Schneider moved from guitar to trumpet to melodica through the course of the show, and even reconnected with his rap roots for the only-slightly-ironic rap songs "Mudhouse" and "Ready Let's Roll," before closing with sing-along rockers "Ass Knocker" and "Tarantula."

Schneider's crowd-pleasing live show is the kind that would win over new fans in a festival setting, which is why it's frustrating that he's mostly absent from the festival circuit. Surely he could get on the lower portion of the bill at Bonnaroo, no? He has at least signed on for this summer's Wakarusa and Mile High Music Festivals - perhaps that will be the first step toward earning himself more the widespread recognition he deserves.


Thursday, May 8, 2008

Mariah is not bigger then Elvis

Mariah Carey recently earned her 18th career #1 on the Billboard singles chart, passing Elvis and moving into second place all-time, behind only the Beatles. This actually led to ridiculous commentaries suggesting that she is legitimately bigger than Elvis. I've never heard anything so silly.

Despite 18 #1 hits over the past 18 years, Mariah doesn't have a song - not one! - that qualifies as a classic. Elvis had classics - Jailhouse Rock, Hound Dog, Can't Help Falling in Love, etc. The Beatles had tons of classics. How about recent acts? Whitney has her classic - I Will Always Love You. Celine has her classic - My Heart Will Go On. Mariah's still waiting.

Quick... how many of Mariah's 18 chart-toppers can you name? Most were utterly forgettable. Sure, she's responsible for the longest-running #1 song in history, at 16 weeks, but can you even remember what it was?

Mariah has had a great career, and I admire the way she's come back from the brink of obscurity (Glitter, anyone?) But let's not try to pretend she's in Elvis Presley's league.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

CD Review: Madonna - Hard Candy


Madonna's new CD is not a failure because, as some people suggest, she's working with big-name hip hop producers and allowing them to have too much control over her sound. After all, her producers have always had a ton of influence on her music, from the top 40 stylings of Patrick Leonard in the '80s to the electronica-pop of William Orbit and Mirwais in the late '90s.

Rather, Hard Candy is a failure for a much simpler reason: The songs suck. Too much style and no substance. Exhibit A is the lead single, "4 Minutes." Timbaland and Justin Timberlake create a hypnotic marching band loop, but it's not long before that gets annoying. And all that's left is an awkward track with flimsy lyrics about saving the world.

This project is very much like Timberlake's FutureSex/LoveSounds, in that Tim & JT created most of the beats. But while that album featured a handful of killer tracks (even the haters can't deny the brilliance of "Summer Love"), the beats here are pretty stale. Few of these songs are deserving of a second listen. "Candy Shop" - boring. "Dance 2night" - boring. "Voices" - boring.

The most tolerable track is "Incredible," which sounds more like Madonna's typical dance-pop sound and less like hip hop. The Pharrell-produced tracks are better than the Timbaland tracks, but even some of those are suspect - "Spanish Lesson" features an exotic-sounding acoustic guitar riff that is blatantly ripped off from Pharrell's own N.E.R.D. track "She Wants to Move."

I'm a Madonna fan, so much so that I even liked American Life. But Hard Candy isn't doing it for me.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Toto appreciation blog

I recently came across a YouTube clip of Toto performing Africa in 1982. Toto was one of the most lame bands of the 1980s, and yet I like a lot of their music. Rosanna, I'll Be Over You, Hold the Line, and I Won't Hold You Back are all in my iTunes playlist...

Africa is so strange. The lyrics are bizarre - "I know that I must do what's right, sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serengeti." The way they repeat "I bless the rains down in Africa" five times in the final chorus... it's bizarre and I like it.

Some interesting Toto trivia:
-Steve Lukather and Mike Porcaro played on Michael Jackson's Thriller.
-Singer Bobby Kimball left the band due to drug problems, which I always found hilarious, the idea that a member of Toto had drug problems. Because, you know, they partied so hard.
-Kimball has rejoined the group and now performs with them live, but amazingly, he lip synchs the chorus to Africa now, because he can't hit the high notes.

No such problems in this clip. It's a really good performance: Toto - Africa (live in Japan, 1982)