Unrescuable Schizo feature: Check out our FAVORITE 30 SONGS OF THE 2000S.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Musician tweet of the week: Max Bemis

Emo/punk icons Say Anything are back with a new album. Singer Max Bemis is excited.

Yes! This is the best reaction we've ever had to anything hahahaha Thank you guys! Album stream: www.myspace.com/sayanything

I haven't personally checked it out yet; I've been busy with the new Weezer and Tegan & Sara CDs... reviews to come soon!


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Interview with OK Go's Tim Nordwind

Bassist Tim Nordwind (right) and his bandmates

Interview by Scott Shetler

OK Go has been one of the more underappreciated rock bands of the past several years. Their excellent last release, Oh No, was overshadowed by its equally excellent videos for “A Million Ways” and “Here it Goes Again” (the treadmill video), the latter of which won a Grammy Award.

In January, they return with the Of the Blue Colour of the Sky, a record produced by Dave Fridmann (MGMT, Flaming Lips) that channels Prince and shows off the band’s funky side. On November 4, they kick off a mini-tour of the Midwest at Mr. Small’s in Pittsburgh.

We recently chatted with bassist Tim Nordwind on the phone about the new record, his Grammy Award (which may or may not have been stolen), and the awesomeness of ‘80s weekly countdown show Solid Gold.

Hi Tim, where are you calling from this morning?
I’m actually in South Bend, Indiana. We’re shooting a video here.

On the subject of videos, your previous videos have set the bar really high. What do you have planned in terms of videos for the new album?
We’ve got one in the can and we’ve got about four more that are in different stages of planning. We’re hoping to make a video for every song on the record this time, which is kind of a lofty goal, but that’s what we’re shooting for.

We have a good time making videos. We’ve been making videos outside of the traditional filmmaking industry for the most part, just because it’s more fun for us to have an idea and figure out how real people might make it, versus industry professionals. It’s fun to dream something up and make it guerrilla style, versus doing it the proper way.

Video: OK Go - A Million Ways

Congratulations on the new album coming out. You started working on it a couple years ago, right?
Yeah, we started writing for it about two years ago when we stopped touring. We toured for 31 straight months on our second round, so we were pretty burned out by the time we stopped. I’d say the first six to eight months, we wrote a bunch of crap because we were so burned out. We were just trying to figure out how to be human beings again.

So it took us about a year and a half to get a group of songs together that we actually liked. We spent most of last year in Fredonia, New York recording with Dave Fridmann and we mixed the record over the summer.

I listened to the new album and I’m kind of blown away by how Prince-sounding some of the songs are.
We were listening to a lot of Purple Rain in the studio. I think on the first two records we exhausted whatever kind of guitar rock demons we have inside of us. We all grew up listening to ‘80s pop radio, which was a pretty seriously eclectic bunch of music – it was Prince and Michael Jackson, but then it was Talking Heads and B-52s. So this record we went back to earlier influences like that. So, yeah, there’s a lot of Prince on this record.

Did you happen to be a fan of Solid Gold in the ‘80s?
The dance show? (laughs) Yeah, who wasn’t? They really don’t make shows like that any more, do they? ‘We’re gonna put 150 people in the room and watch them dance.’

That’s my guilty pleasure on YouTube.
Wow, I hadn’t considered that it might be on YouTube. I guess everything’s on YouTube. You’ve inspired me to go back to my Solid Gold years.

One of the new songs, “Before the Earth was Round,” feels like your Kid A moment. What’s the story behind that song?
That was one of the first songs written for this record. It was an early contender for the album. It’s got that vocoder, lonely robot sound. I suppose musically, Blonde Redhead was sort of the referential influence for that song. Lyrically, I feel like I’m not always equipped to speak to the lyrics because I didn’t write them. Damian’s the singer and wrote those lyrics. I know it’s sort of a parable about before the earth was round. The characters are the sky and love.

Do you have a favorite of the new songs?
There’s a song called “All is Not Lost” that I like a lot. I think “Skyscrapers” is really good, a slow and groovy song. It’s roughly about a character who lived his or her life not believing in anything, sort of looking up at a skyscraper and being like, Wow, someone actually dreams that and makes that, and that’s pretty insane. Sort of a song about finding something to believe in, which is kinda nice.

Stream “Skyscrapers” from OK Go’s upcoming album here:

Where do you keep your Grammy?
(Laughs) I don’t even know where my Grammy is, to be honest with you. I moved about two years ago and I packed it up. My Grammy is in storage. Which is awful, I need to get it out.

I’m a little bit afraid that it’s not there anymore. It’s buried under a bunch of boxes. I think it’s probably safe. In some ways it’s probably safer than the ones that are out because I think it would be much harder to find. If someone wanted to come in and steal my Grammy, they’d have to go through an awful lot of boxes.

Are you guys in the camp that doesn’t put much stock in award shows, or was it actually really thrilling to get a Grammy?

It was really thrilling, but I don’t put stock in accomplishments, period. I feel like the minute you are satisfied with something, that’s the minute you’ve lost. I don’t want to say we don’t put a lot of stock in award shows – we don’t actively go out and say they’re bullshit or anything like that. But I don’t think we’re the type of people who sit around and celebrate that stuff for a very long time. We appreciate it on the day we get it, and then it’s time to move on to the next project.

Your band is one of the more fashionable bands in rock. How would you describe your style?
The style for the last record was like an update on turn of the century dandyism (laughs). It was fashion patterns mixed with paisley and formal suits. I think it’s ever-changing, though. The way it’s going this time is sort of colorful. We’re getting out of always needing to be in a three-piece suit. I get the sense we’re sort of headed in a slightly more futuristic and colorful direction.

Video: Tim narrates a video of OK Go recording the new album

You guys have been parodied on The Simpsons, you’ve been in films and tv shows, in video games, on billboards… are there any forms of media left for you to conquer?
Well, we’ve yet to be projected onto the moon. That would be great. We haven’t been on Saturday Night Live, which I would like to do. That’s personally my favorite show - other than Solid Gold. If I could turn back time and get on Solid Gold, that would be an obvious choice, now that you’ve got me thinking.

OK Go performs at Mr. Small’s in Pittsburgh on November 4 with local favorites Donora. Find the band online at okgo.net and follow Tim on Twitter at http://twitter.com/timothynordwind.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Musician tweet of the week: Brendan Urie

Panic! At The Disco are working on a new record. And they've reclaimed their lost exclamation point!

It's amazing how fast a band can fall off the radar. They've lost two of their members. We'll see if the new album (blink-182's Mark Hoppus is contributing) puts them back in the spotlight.

Panic! singer Brendan Urie was tweeting about domestic life this week:

i believe my dog Bogart's favorite movie is Marley & Me. can't keep his eyes off the screen.

The band's new album is slated for a 2010 release.


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Kid Cudi's "Pursuit of Happiness"

This video is a few weeks old but I just ran across it. Kid Cudi is proving himself to be a weirdo, and that's a great quality for a rapper to have. His latest song "Pursuit of Happiness" is a trippy collaboration with indie rock bands MGMT and Ratatat.

He played the song live on Letterman with Ratatat last month.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Musician tweet of the week: Miranda Lambert

I had a chance to catch country singer Miranda Lambert live a couple weeks ago, and it was a great show. She's a badass. She's a bit too rowdy for country radio, unfortunately, and sometimes her tweets bear that out.

I forgot my pistol. A girl's gotta have a side arm.....

Miranda's new song "White Liar" is a good one, go check it out.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Michael Jackson nominations make a mockery of the American Music Awards

{Originally published here}

The American Music Awards have always been the red-headed stepchild of award shows, playing second (or even third) fiddle behind the Grammys and the MTV Video Music Awards. I've made fun of them many times over the years for some of the ridiculous things they do, but this one takes the cake.

The American Music Awards have just released their nominations for 2009, and get this - Michael Jackson is nominated five times. The same Michael Jackson who has released exactly ONE new song this entire year - and that was just two days ago. Somehow, the AMAs think that makes Michael worthy of an Artist of the Year nomination.

The award winners will be determined by fans online. That guarantees Jackson of winning all five, because he has the most rabid worldwide fan base. Kids in New Zealand and Argentina and Austria will be voting for Michael. Eminem and Taylor Swift just can't compete with that. This means that in a few short weeks, the American Music Awards will be awarding their Artist of the Year trophy for 2009 to Michael Jackson. Absolutely stunning.

No one would deny the impact that Jackson has had on popular music. In my opinion he's the greatest pop star of all-time. But allowing him to compete for awards that are supposed to reward the best music of 2009 is simply ridiculous.

The American Music Awards are going for a ratings grab, plain and simple. Dick Clark and the folks who run the AMAs realize their show has become completely irrelevant and have decided they can profit off Michael's death by nominating him for every award possible and hoping that Janet or Jermaine shows up at the ceremony to accept them.

The American Music Awards could have presented a tribute to Michael Jackson during their show and no one would have protested. But to nominate him for five awards makes an absolute mockery of the show and ruins what little credibility the American Music Awards had left.

Monday, October 12, 2009

New Michael Jackson song "This is It" finally released

Michael Jackson's new single "This is It" was released on his website at midnight this morning. The mid-tempo track was originally recorded during sessions for the Dangerous album. It's a decent song, with a groove reminiscent of some of his '80s work. His voice blends nicely with those of his brothers, who were brought in to add backing vocals to the track.

"This is It" is actually the same song released by R&B singer Sa-Fire in 1991 under the title "I Never Heard." Jackson's version of more of a straighforward pop arrangement, with orchestral flourishes.

Had the song appeared on Dangerous, it would've stood out like a sore thumb among the more hip hop-influenced tracks on that album.

"This is It" is just a decent song, but it's all but guaranteed to be a worldwide smash given the renewed interest and excitement in Jackson's music since his death. It's likely to be the first of many posthumous releases from Jackson's camp.

And don't forget about This Is It the movie, which comes out in two weeks and has already sold out in many cities around the world. I have my tickets already!

Video: Michael Jackson - "This is It"

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Musician tweet of the week: John Mayer

This week, regrettably, Miley Cyrus canceled her Twitter account. Not even desperate tweets from her dad could change her mind.

Like all of us, John Mayer was broken up about this:

I can't help but find myself asking the question "What would Miley have tweeted about this?"

John Mayer is a prolific tweeter. He tweets several times, every single day. Dude doesn't have anything better to do, I guess.


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

My favorite 30 songs of the 2000s

Some of these are guilty pleasures. Some are bona fide classics. They are my favorite 30 songs of the past decade.

These may not necessarily be the best songs of the past 10 years – just the ones I enjoyed the most. Feel free to suggest your favorites.

Click the "YouTube" link after each blurb to see the music video in a new window.

Who needs love when you have music? Brazil's Cansei de Ser Sexy produced a classic with this ode to music itself. "Music is my boyfriend," singer Lovefoxxx screams. The song is too good for me to care that they sold it to an iPod ad. YouTube

AFI conveniently came along at a time when I started wearing a lot of black and going to goth night. "The Leaving Song Pt. II" is one of many fist-pumping anthems from this ever-evolving band. YouTube

"This song is not about John McCain," singer Matt Berninger made sure to point out when the National performed "Mr. November" at Lollapalooza 2008. Its real meaning is a bit cryptic - at songmeanings.net they suggest it's about conflict with the band's English record label. I enjoy the song because of the contrast between the mellow verses and the explosive, vulgar chorus. YouTube

Psych-pop band MGMT is the only act to place three songs in my top 30. And they only have one album to their credit. I can't wait to see what they come up with in the next decade. YouTube

"You liked me til you heard my shit on the radio," snaps Nelly Furtado on this underappreciated song from her debut album. She shares this blog's attitude that just because something is mainstream, that doesn't make it bad. I love the final fadeout chorus, where Nelly keeps repeating the part about staying true to herself. YouTube

While in college I went through a phase where I had just gotten high-speed internet access for the first time and I was just getting into techno, so I spent weeks downloading lots of music, most of which was forgettable. "One More Time" has stood the test of time. And you can't measure the cool factor of two French dudes in robot costumes. YouTube

Robert Smith and blink-182 are an unlikely pairing, but one that worked really well. This dark, depressing track was from blink's 2003 self-titled album, which was a shocking artistic step forward from their previous brand of music that was heavy on bathroom humor. Of course, they went and broke up shortly thereafter. YouTube

"First Day of my Life" is a love song that succeeds because of its simplicity. I love the lyric, "I'd rather be working for a paycheck than waiting to win the lottery." Great relationship advice! Stunning music video, as well.

There's no better proof that music is the universal language than the success of Sigur Ros. Usually, they sing in Icelandic. Sometimes, they sing in complete gibberish. It's always emotional, beautiful, and powerful. My favorite Sigur Ros song changes by the day, but one of the songs that best exemplifies their sound is "Glosoli," which slowly builds until it reaches a massive crescendo. YouTube

Junior and Senior recently decided to part ways, a tragic development for anyone interested in shaking his or her coconuts, but they left us with this gem. The music video featuring low-fi Atari-style graphics is my second-favorite of all-time, behind Johnny Cash's "Hurt." Oh yeah! YouTube

Those peppy Canadian kids in Tokyo Police Club delivered two minutes of delicious punk energy on "Cheer it On." Bonus points for putting the name of their band in the lyrics. YouTube

Antony's unusual voice is jarring at first but once you get used to it, it's just another beautiful instrument. "You Are My Sister" was his most commercially successful song. Boy George took some time off from being a trainwreck to contribute a nice vocal. YouTube

"No One's Gonna Love You" is just an incredibly sweet song. It's the indie rock "You Light Up My Life!" YouTube

"Nineteen" is one of those songs that makes me want to become a drummer, because of the crazy drum shit going on during the verses. The lyrics are equally disjointed, telling the tale of an apparent infatuation and then an apparent breakup, but wait, it's not really a breakup because they were never together! You figure it out. YouTube

It's surprising that only one emo-pop song made this list, given that the genre is my guilty pleasure. Metro Station's self-titled release had several catchy songs ("Control" and "Kelsey" are also recommended), but the best was the addictive "Shake It." That's Billy Ray Cyrus's stepson whispering the verses. I bet Miley's jealous she didn't make the list. YouTube

Okkervil River singer Will Sheff puts together intricately detailed stories that just happen to be set to music. "Our Life is Not a Movie or Maybe" was one of his best. Life may be a bummer, but it can still be fun. YouTube

The first time I saw Matt and Kim was at Lollapalooza 2007 when they subbed for CSS, who had canceled. I was so devastated at missing CSS I ran off without listening to any of Matt and Kim's performance, and I immediately hated them by association. Two years later, they're my favorite band. Who could stay mad at the cutest indie pop duo in the world? Big ups to Williamsburg! YouTube

"Fidelity" instructs that the way to find love is to stop resisting and just go for it, consequences be damned. Don't worry that it might end up breaking your ha-ah-ah, ah-ah-ah, ah-ah-ah, ah-ah-ah-aart. YouTube

I was a latecomer to the Patrick Wolf bandwagon, first drawn in by “The Magic Position," but it was an earlier song, "A Boy Like Me," that I couldn't stop playing, thanks to its haunting electronic effects and ruminations on stereotypes of age and gender. YouTube

Sometimes the acoustic singer-songwriter thing bores me, but "Skinny Love" stands out because of the incredible passion of singer Justin Vernon. We can truly feel his pain. YouTube

No one could resist that Nintendo-ish keyboard. "Time to Pretend" is a cheeky song about living to excess and having fun. “Let’s make some music, make some money, find some models for wives,” Andrew VanWyngarden sings. “What else can we do – get jobs in offices and wake up for the morning commute?” The song made every poor sap stuck in a 9-to-5 job re-examine his life. (Or maybe it was just me.) YouTube

As you can probably tell by now, I’m a fan of silly pop music, and Architecture in Helsinki were one of the best bands of said genre. They released a bunch of cute songs - "Wishbone," "Maybe You Can Owe Me," "Heart it Races" - but "It'5" was the most pointless, the most silly, and the most fun. YouTube

The Dresden Dolls were my favorite band for much of the decade. "Delilah" isn’t as aggressive as most of their "Brechtian punk cabaret" songs - it’s a ballad about a troubled girl: "And you thought you could change the world by opening your legs/Well it isn't very hard/Try kicking them instead." Amanda Palmer’s words are gripping – someone should really name a blog after one of those lyrics. YouTube

This Austin duo has been accurately referred to as "part techno, part 70s glam rock, part futuristic meditational space odyssey." They placed two songs in my top 10, and they’re both so different. "Vibrate" is a dance song with weird electronic programming provided by cape-wearing drummer Thomas Ross Turner. Seeing the song performed live is quite an experience, thanks to the captivating dancing of Aaron Behrens. YouTube

How can you not love the Hold Steady? Craig Finn may be the most unlikely rock star ever. His lyrics are some of the most intelligent words you’ll ever hear in rock music, and his sing-speak delivery ensures we can understand every word. I love a bunch of Hold Steady songs, but "Massive Nights" is my favorite, as it reminds me of all the memorable nights I had going out on the South Side of Pittsburgh. YouTube

Ignore the haters and keep on getting your paper! I love Rihanna's soaring vocals, especially in the final bridge. T.I. does his part by providing several memorable lines: "Unhappy with the riches cause you're piss poor morally," "Whoever having problems with they record sales just holla to me," "Safe to say I paved the way for you cats to get paid today." The "Dragostea din tei" sample was an inspired touch that made the song epic. YouTube

One of the most unique tracks of the decade. The gunshots and cash registers never get old. It's one of those songs that makes you wonder, How did anyone even conceive of something like that? YouTube

It's hard to be patient in the iPod era. I often skip songs that don't excite me in the first 30 seconds. But "The Bleeding Heart Show" is a perfect case study for listening all the way through. It takes a long time to open up, and when it does, it reveals a glorious chorus and sweet "ooh ooh" and "hey la" harmonies that leave the listener wanting more. Somehow, this song ended up in commercials for the University of Phoenix, but that's cool - whatever gives the song more exposure is fine by me. YouTube

I don't know what it is about "Silver City," but from the moment I heard it I've been enchanted. If aliens want to take over the world, they should play this song and we'll be hypnotized and do whatever they ask. The spacey intro, the meandering keyboard bleeps and blips, the computerized vocals, the real vocals later on, and then more spacey-ness. This might be the one song I could listen to over and over and never get sick of it. YouTube

One critic described this song better than I could as “an irresistible slice of '70s disco porn groove overlaid with dreamy shimmering '80s panpipes synth notes.” Best moment: The anticipatory pauses just before each chorus, where you're waiting for the dramatic "Ooh girl!" "Electric Feel" is pretty much a perfect pop song. YouTube

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Musician tweet of the week: Mike Doughty

Former Soul Coughing frontman (sorry, Mike, I'm still going to introduce you that way) Mike Doughty was a busy tweeter this week:

"Yes, as it happens, I do believe my job has more societal worth than that of a professional Donkey Kong player."

I'm not sure if Mike is quoting someone else or just being witty himself, but who really cares? This is really just an excuse to mention that Doughty's new album Sad Man Happy Man, featuring the provocatively-titled "How to Fuck a Republican," comes out on Tuesday, and he'll be at Club Cafe in Pittsburgh next weekend for three shows.


Thursday, October 1, 2009

October Pittsburgh concerts

photo credit: Leigh Righton

10/7 Japandroids @ Garfield Artworks
I saw this duo at Pitchfork and they blew me away with their ferocious sound. They also noted that since they had a limited amount of time, they were not providing their usual amount of onstage banter, which is usually "fucking amazing," they said. So be prepared for unforgettable banter at this show.

10/1 Taylor Swift @ Mellon Arena
Still just 19, Taylor already has eight hit singles under her belt, and you can expect to hear all of them at this arena show. She's been in the spotlight recently thanks to the Kanye incident, which will probably end up helping her career because of all the attention and sympathy it's brought her, not that the successful teenager needed any extra help.

10/11 AFI @ Club Zoo

The reviews are mixed on whether AFI's new album Crash Love is a mainstream sell-out, or a continuation of the edgy, appealing sound of their last two records, Sing the Sorrow and Decemberunderground. Either way, this is a band that hasn't headlined a show in Pittsburgh in quite a while, so they're worth checking out.

Others to keep in mind:
10/3 Social Distortion @ Ches-A-Rena
10/3 The White Tie Affair @ University of Pittsburgh
10/6 Cowboy Junkies @ Byham Theater
10/8-9 Mike Doughty @ Club Cafe
10/10 Carbon Leaf @ Duquesne University
10/16 They Might Be Giants @ Mr. Small's
10/16 The Tragically Hip @ Byham Theater
10/21 Shooter Jennings @ Mr. Small's
10/23 The Damned @ Diesel
10/24 Silversun Pickups @ Ches-A-Rena
10/25 Keller Williams @ Mr. Small's
10/29 Soulive @ Rex Theatre
10/30 Phil Vassar @ Pepsi Cola Roadhouse