Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Let him eat cake

Lee Hazlewood is dying... but he doesn't want your pity.

Diagnosed with terminal cancer, the cult icon set to record this farewell album, Cake or Death, but like the rest of his career, it had to be done his way. No fancy schmancy cameos, just good friends of no importance to the industry. For "She's Gonna Break Some Heart Tonight," he had his friend Tommy Parsons sing the whole song, to pay the debt of 'saving his life.' And in one of the most touching music moments, Hazlewood's 8-year old grandaughter Phaedra sings "Some Velvet Morning," the song from which she got her name. Of course, she thinks the song's written for her, and can't withhold the joy of that notion (even ends with a "peace out."

Album: Lee Hazlewood - Cake or Death

The only big name sitting in here is Duane Eddy on guitar for Hazlewood's take on his old original song "Boots," which eventually became the hit "These Boots are Made For Walking" for Nancy Sinatra, the first of many between the pair. Hazlewood helped produced and co-wrote some of Eddy's best stuff, includeing "Rebel Rouser," so it's fitting that Eddy's here.

All in all, the album is a fine balance of schmaltz and levity, just like Hazlewood's career. One imagines cigarette butts and empty martinis at the end of this wake, and Hazlewood wouldn't have it any other way.

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Wincing the charts away

The Shins' Wincing the Night Away debuts this week at #2 with 118,000 copies sold (Billboard.) The album also opens at No. 1 on Top Independent Albums, Top Digital Albums, Top Internet Albums and the Top Tastemakers chart.

Still waiting to hear if it puts a dent in the Freshmakers chart.

I guess Sub Pop's gamble might pay off after all. It will be interesting to see now if The Shins stick with the indie label now that they've shown they can get them on the charts.

Album: The Shins - Wincing the Night Away

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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Sansa Packing: New Releases 01.30.07

While not as claustrophobic as last weeks pile of great new releases, there are still plenty to go 'round this last week of January. I've already posted plenty on Lily Allen's Alright, Still, but now you can finally get it without importing (or, God forbid, stealing.)

Playlist: New Releases 01.30.07

Here's a rundown of what's downloading into my Sansa as I type this:
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Album: Deerhunter - Cryptograms

This Atlanta quintet weaves post-punk, krautrock, trance, industrial and pop all into one awe-inspiring package. While it feels uneven at times, it's these rocky transitions that make sure you're paying attention, not locked into some sort of trance. From the Slanted & Enchanted ("Lake Somerset") to Elephant 6 ("Strange Lights") this disc travels far and wide to defy categorization. It's an album that's going to stick with me, I can already tell... already looks like they could be one of the most talked about bands this year.

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Album: Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - Some Loud Thunder

I have to admit, I'm initially a bit disappointed at this sophomore release from the artists formerly known as 'the next big thing.' While there are many great moments in the album, most the tracks feel half-baked and unfinished. "Satan Said Dance" is a good example of this dichotomy. It's fun and danceable, but the lyrics are truly disposable. What makes this an album worth checking out, though, is the interesting production from Dave Fridmann, who even on the over-the-top distorted title track (which is CYHSY once again f*cking with you on their opening song) makes you interested in what's under the hood here.

Download: "Underwater (You and Me)"

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Album: Young Love - Too Young To Fight It

I'm gonna be honest with you - this is one frustrating album. It's a few fun dance-oriented pop songs surrounded by emo-sounding filler tracks. After a couple listens, though, I'm stripping songs off the album, trimming it down to an EP of pure dance-pop bliss, and couldn't be happier with the final product.

Here's my version (half the fat:) Young Love - Too Young EP

Free AOL Album Stream

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Other albums going into the Sansa:
Beirut - Lon Gisland EP
Busdriver - RoadKillOvercoat
Hella - There's No 666 In Outerspace
Lewis taylor - The Lost Album
Manic - Floorboards EP
Bracken - We Know About the Need

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Monday, January 29, 2007

Ear on TV: Week of January 29

Although it seems like it's been out forever, Lily Allen's debut release, Alright, Still, hits shelves here in the US tomorrow, and as a result, her presence on 'the telly' here is growing every minute. A sure bet that the UK hitmaker is taking hold is the fact that she's the musical guest this week on Saturday Night Live, and one can only hope that the 'not ready for prime time players' incorporate her into a sketch. She's certainly got the pedigree for at least a bit part, seeing how comedian/actor Keith Allen is her dad and all.

Elsewhere, the children's program Jack's Big Music Show will have a special Groundhogs Day episode on Friday, in which The Daily Show host Jon Stewart guest stars as a news reporter. The episode also features music from former Blues Clues star and singer Steve Burns being backed by Flaming Lips multi-instrumental maestro Stephen Drozd. The past couple weeks I've been excited to see indie acts like Andrew Bird and the Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players make appearances on the show. Of course Eli merely finds my excitement amusing - he, being 22-months old now, prefers the puppets.

Monday, January 29
ABC: Jimmy Kimmel Live: Spank Rock (RERUN)
CBS: Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson: Billy Bragg
NBC: Late Night With Conan O'Brien: Peter Bjorn and John
Tuesday, January 30
ABC: Jimmy Kimmel Live: Patton Oswalt
Wednesday, January 31
ABC: Jimmy Kimmel Live: Robin Thicke, Pharell Williams
CBS: Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson: RZA
NBC: Late Night With Conan O'Brien: Paul Weller
NBC: Last Call With Carson Daly: Emily Haines
Thursday, February 1
ABC: Jimmy Kimmel Live: Damian Marley
NBC: Last Call With Carson Daly: Ludacris
Friday, February 2
NOGGIN: Jack's Big Music Show: Jon Stewart, Steve Burns with Stephen Drozd
ABC: Jimmy Kimmel Live: Nas
NBC: The Tonight Show with Jay Leno: The Game
NBC: Late Night With Conan O'Brien: Stars of Track and Field
NBC: Last Call With Carson Daly: The Format
Saturday, February 3
NBC: Saturday Night Live: Lily Allen
PBS: Austin City Limits: Wilco, Bright Eyes

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Friday, January 26, 2007

I Ching, you ching

It's Groundhog's Day a week early on The O.C., which I guess is understandable as they hurry (scurry?) to close out the series by the end of next month - and that's not a lot of time to fit a whole year's worth of cultural references. Last night's more memorable ones included a little South Korean shock cinema, and Che's experimentation with I Ching divination.

Leading up to this divination, though, was the wholly appropriate song "Gronlandic Edit" from Of Montreal, who's latest album Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer? (see review) was just released this week. The album follows frontman Kevin Barnes' mental breakdown, and this song is the point where Barnes tries on different life principals in hopes that something might work:
Art/Philosphy:
The Surrealists were just Nihilists with good imaginations
Religion:
Guess it would be nice to give my heart to a god
But which one which one do I choose?

and finally Science:
We fell back to earth like gravity's bitches
Physics makes us all its bitches
Che, similarly, is literally grabbing at straws here, specifically yarrow sticks, which are one of the methods for divining The I Ching. After one of his tosses and readings, he seems to mutter "the grasshopper lies heavy at night," which I believe is a direct reference to Phillip K. Dick's great novel The Man in the High Castle, which Dick reportedly wrote using The I Ching. In the novel, there's a book called The Grasshopper Lies Heavy which is written using, you guessed it, The I Ching, and yarrow sticks are used throughout Dick's story. This novel within a novel describes an alternative reality to what exists in Dick's main storyline, and this alternative reality turns out to be the real one. Che's spirit animal dream of falling in love with an otter also turns out to be a reality - albeit a misinterpreted one, as it turns out to be a groundhog - a hottie dressed up as one, anyway.

The rest of the episode is flooded with great music, probably the best mix they've had in a few seasons. Silversun Pickups, Hot Chip, The Stills... it's almost like a best of 2006 mix. The other unique music moment, though, goes to The Chemical Brothers' classic jam "Leave Home," which was used to back Che and Seth's stealth-y kidnapping of Chuck the Groundhog. "Brother's gonna work it out" indeed... The O.C. appears to be at least going out with a bang musically.

Playlist: The O.C. - Episode 4.12
1. "Gronlandic Edit" - Of Montreal
2. "Lazy Eye" - Silversun Pickups
3. "Leave Home" - The Chemical Brothers
4. "High Lonesome Moan" - David Pajo
5. "And I Was A Boy From School" - Hot Chip
6. "The House We Live In" - The Stills

Previously: The O.C.'s version of Fear Factor (Episode 4.11)

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Thursday, January 25, 2007

Are you on the list?

The blog Heart On A Stick undertook the massive task of aggregating year-end lists from 640 music sites and compiling them into a master consensus. TV on the Radio's Return to Cookie Mountain took the crown by a resounding margin (250 points,) which is hardly a surprise. While your humble drake missed the first round (12/21,) my list made the cut the second time around (with 640 sources, I'd be a bit depressed if it didn't ;)

Playlist: Best Albums from 2006 - Bloggregate

A lot of interesting data can be mined from the aggregate data. For instance, the album with the highest average ranking was one not many folks (including myself) have had the opportunity to hear, and that's The Veils' second release Nux Vomica, which is currently only available via import (on Rough Trade.) That's one that will definitely make next year's annual best of the year (not from the year) list.

For more useful data, head over to Heart on a Stick's Bloggregate.

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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Physics makes us all its bitches

Of Montreal's latest album, Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer? finds Kevin Barnes exposed for all to see. Whereas past albums had Barnes persona buried behind characters and cute studies of human nature, this album is all Barnes - all the insecurities, sorrow, pain, doubt and redemption... and it's quite a ride.


Album: Of Montreal - Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?

The first six songs are the sounds of Barnes and his family falling apart, from the hook-filled opener "Suffer for Fashion" ("if we've got to burn out, let's do it together, let's all meltdown together,") to "Cato as a Pun" ("what has happened to you and I... and don't say that I have changed, 'cause man of course I have.") By the time we get to "Heimdalsgate Like a Promethean Curse," (the first single, see the crazy video,) it's obvious Barnes' brain chemistry is in need of some help ("come on mood shift, shift back to good again" "chemicals don't mess me up this time,") and "Gronlandic Edit," has him broken down, attempting to apply different philosophies - "the surrealists were just Nihilists with good imaginations" and "guess it would be nice to give my heart to a god, but which one do I choose?" But in the end:
We fell back to earth like gravity's bitches
(Physics makes us all its bitches)
"A Sentence of Sorts in Kongsvinger" follows, which is the first to take a step back and look at his situation (falling apart in Norway,) which allows for Barnes to come to some resolution of his terror ("this family sticks together, we will escape from the south to the west side.") At this point, the family moves back to Athens, and all is well. Or is it?

What follows is the epic (nearly 12 minutes) "The Past is a Grotesque Animal" which has Barnes "tearing the sh*t apart" lyrically over what sounds like Joy Division riffing on Dylan's Blood on the Tracks (if that was possible.) It's one riff that seems like it can go nowhere, but the lyrics and the building of layers throughout make it feel like it's going miles from it's departure point. While Barnes is all over the map with his breakdown, he does touch on several cultural references, the two most interesting are Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf ("the mousey girl screams 'violence, violence!'") and French author Georges Bataille:
I fell in love with the first cute girl that I met
who could appreciate Georges Bataille
standing at a swedish festival
discussing
Story of the Eye
disgusting Story of the Eye
Story of the Eye (Histoire de l'oeil) is Bataille's pornographic classic novella, showing the dark side of eroticism through sexual extremes. Here then Barnes is reinvented as 'Georgie Fruit,' a glam-rock, opening the door for the next chapter of Hissing Fauna, Barnes' hedonistic breakdown in the wake of becoming a father. He and his wife separate and she moves back to Norway, and Georgie Fruit gets his Prince on. "Faberge Falls for Shuggie" references Shuggie Otis, has the kind of groove you'd never expect from Of Montreal, and Barnes' double-entendres are elevated by a Prince-like falsetto delivery. Lines like "now that the parachute has opened, well... don't it make you feel good?" and "be careful how you touch me, my body is an earthquake, ready to receive you;" let you know the party's right here.

"Labyrinthian Pomp" continues the Prince-funk vibe, but also finally references the album title, with the lyric "let's just say you are not the destroyer." Barnes references both the "controller sphere" and the "destroyer sphere" in the song and it seems it's a reference to male (controller) and female (destroyer) genetalia. A quick translation to a lyric in Norwegian ("du er ikke den som ödelägger fitta" sung by a female voice) reveals the "you are not the destroyer" sentiment, but adds "vagina" to the end ("fitta".) For Georgie Fruit, "the controller sphere has disappeared, and it hurts," which suggests that Fruit is transgender. We've gone Hedgwig and the Angry Inch, it seems.

The album limps, conceptually, to the finish line from here, starting with "She's a Rejecter," which is hilarious with lines like "there's the girl that left me bitter... want to pay some other girl to just walk up to her and hit her" and the rejoiner "and I know you're not her, 'cause the girl of my dreams is probably god... still, I want you." The last song ("We Were Born Mutants Again With Leafling") perhaps provides some conclusion with the line "let them say our love is peculiar," as Barnes and his ex-wife are back together, but the lyrics are pretty cryptic beyond that. The two bonus tracks here are lullabyes that delve further into Barnes sad state during his family's breakup. The first ("Derailments In a Place of our Own,") is to his wife ("how can we make things light again, how can we win?") the second ("Miss Blonde, Your Papa is Failing,") to his child ("was I born to give you a name and then be erased because I couldn't keep it together?") This one might break your heart if you spend too much time with it.

Unlike the past couple albums (The Sunlandic Twins, Satanic Panic in the Attic,) there's no one song that jumps out as a single, but on the whole, it still stands as Barnes' finest achievement, and will (joyously) demand repeated listens.

Previously:
Sansa Packing: New Releases 01.23.07

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Sansa Packing: New Releases 01.23.07

The third Tuesday of the new year has become the new traditional date to make your indie rock release (see last year's motherload.) Today there's a gluttony of riches being dropped in front of us, and, at least for me, the sheer amount of interesting releases is nearly paralyzing.

Playlist: New Releases 01.23.07

Here's what I've packed into my Sansa (not counting the big three releases from The Shins, Of Montreal, Deerhoof.)
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Album: Menomena - Friend and Foe

This Portland post-rock trio builds their songs via loops, using software (called 'deeler') they created themselves out of necessity (called deeler.) Friend and Foe builds on the fun of 2003's I Am the Fun Blame Monster with every sax and keyboard loop, until the songs just burst out of their hinges.

Download: "Wet and Rustling"
Free album stream from Barsuk
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Album: Caetano Veloso - Ce

"You won't recognize me/Even when I go right by you," translates the opening line from "Outro" the leadoff track from Caetano Veloso's latest release Ce. That song zooms by you, yanking you back to his roots of combining rock and samba, like he did in the late 60's to help popularize the tropicalia movement in Brasil. Ce has a DIY feeling to it, sounding nearly lo-fi, with his son Moreno providing the mixing duties, and containing 100% original tunes, something the cover-happy Veloso's never achieved before.
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Album: Six Parts Seven - Casually Smashed to Pieces

Ohio's 6P7 continue to tread the same instrumental waters as their Chicago counterparts Tortoise, but on this, their 6th LP, they're more focused and melodic then ever. Songs start with textures and melodies sift in building to a joyous chorus, much like the work of Explosions In The Sky. It's perfect soundtrack music for your day, which has me thinking... why don't we hear Six Parts Seven's work in film and tv? Stay tuned, I guess.

Download: "Stolen Moments"
Free AOL Album Stream
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Album: Arbouretum - Rites of Uncovering

Not for everyone, Arbouretum's slow-churning, loose, dark-alt-country is an aquired taste, one that's often satiated by Will Oldham's offerings. Which makes sense, since Arbouretum brainchild David Heumann played with Oldham in his incarnation Bonny "Prince" Billy. The packagin for Rites of Uncovering opens with a quote from novelist Paul Bowles' work The Sheltering Sky, which says a lot about the album:

"There was the certitude of an infinite sadness at the core of his consciousness, but the sadness was reassuring, because it alone was familiar. He needed no further consolation."
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Album: Nurse & Soldier - Marginalia

Nurse & Soldier is a side-project of Robertson Thacher (aka Bobby Matador of Oneida,) along with his longtime collaborator Erica Fletcher (AKA 'Rockie'.) It's decidedly lo-fi, and one could be tempted to write it off as just a quirky home project, but it feels more then that. Unlike Oneida, it's far more raw with a sense of longing... or as their label Jagjaguwar says in their blurb for it: the sound of Marginalia is a confused murmur, as opposed to Oneida's punishing roar.

Download: "Green Tea"
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More albums that made their way into the Sansa today:
The Shins - Wincing the Night Away (Free AOL Album Stream)
Of Montreal - Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer? (Free AOL Album Stream)
Deerhoof Friend Opportunity (Free AOL Album Stream)
Clinic - Visitations (Free AOL Album Stream)
Fujiya & Miyagi - Transparent Things
The Broken West - I Can't Go On, I'll Go On (Free AOL Album Stream)
Kristin Hersh - Learn to Sing Like a Star
Animal Collective - The People EP (Free AOL Album Stream)
David Vandervelde - The Moonstation Hosue Band
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly - The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (Free AOL Album Stream)
Vietnam - Vietnam
The Bird and the Bee - The Bird and the Bee

One I wish I could pop in the Sansa:
Alasdair Roberts - The Crook of My Arm (damn Drag City!)

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Monday, January 22, 2007

Little fat man who sold his soul

While we're six months behind the UK on this (Stereogum,) David Bowie's appearance on Extras last night has to be one of the funniest rock cameo's in television history.

Bowie writes an impromptu song called "Little Fat Man," after hearing Andy Millman (Ricky Gervais) complain about the series (When the Whistle Blows)he sold to the BBC.

Little fat man who sold his soul,
Little fat man who sold his dream...

Pathetic little fat man,
No one's bloody laughing,
The clown that no one laugh's at,
They all just wish he'd die.
He's so depressed at being hated,
Fatso takes his own life,
He blows his stupid brains out,
But the twat would probably miss.

He sold his soul for a shot at fame,
Catchphrase and wig and the jokes are lame,
He's got no style, he's got no grace,
He's banal and facile, he's a fat waste of space

See his pug-nosed face...Pug, pug, pug, pug,
See his pug-nosed face...Pug, pug, pug, pug,
See his pug-nosed face...Pug, pug, pug, pug,
The little fat man with the pug-nosed face, Pug, pug, pug, pug,
Little fat man, pug-nosed face, Pug, pug, pug, pug,
He's a little fat pug-nosed face, Pug, pug, pug, pug.

Bowie is most certainly having a laugh.

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Ear on TV: Week of January 22

It's another week, another bout with The Shins, as their album Wincing the Night Away finally sees it's release this week. This time around, Letterman (Tuesday) gets the honor and they'll feature background vocals from Viva Voce's Anita Robinson (who also sang backup for them on their recent Saturday Night Live appearance.) Viva Voce is opening for The Shins on their US tour starting February 8 (in Minneapolis, MN.)

Elsewhere, quirky but lovable Nellie Mckay appears on Letterman tonight with the Brooklyn Philharmonic which should be memorable. Also checkout The Bird and the Bee making their network television debut on Leno (Thursday.) Bee lead singer Inara George is the daughter of the legendary Lowell George (Little Feat) and their self-titled debut album also sees it's release this week.

Monday, January 22
ABC: Jimmy Kimmel Live: Nas (RERUN)
CBS: Late Show With David Letterman: Nellie Mckay
CBS: Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson: Lady Sovereign (RERUN)
Tuesday, January 23
CBS: Late Show With David Letterman: The Shins, Viva Voce
NBC: Late Night With Conan O'Brien: Cheap Trick (RERUN)
Wednesday, January 24
CBS: Late Show With David Letterman: Rosanne Cash
NBC: Last Call With Carson Daly: Matt Costa (RERUN)
Thursday, January 25
CBS: Late Show With David Letterman: Gwen Stefani (RERUN)
NBC: The Tonight Show with Jay Leno: The Bird and the Bee
NBC: Late Night With Conan O'Brien: The New York Dolls (RERUN)
Friday, January 26
NBC: The Tonight Show with Jay Leno: Rodrigo y Gabriela
NBC: Last Call With Carson Daly: Young Jeezy
Saturday, January 27
NBC: Saturday Night Live: Ludacris (RERUN)

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Sunday, January 21, 2007

Dr Stringz

Andrew Bird is Dr. Stringz


Children's programming seems so mindless, and I always feel it's part of our job as parents to steer Eli in the direction of the good stuff - that is of course when we're not steering him clear of television all together. One program that I actually encourage him viewing has been Jack's Big Music Show, which has all sorts of great music lessons, but is easy for Eli to swallow 'cause there's puppets. For instance, Andrew Bird made an appearance this morning playing a character called Dr. Stringz, an instrument repairman magically called in to fix a broken hammer dulcimer. Before fixing the aforementioned instrument, Bird treated us to a song, featuring him on the guitar, mandolin and violin... I guess showing why he holds a doctorate in, well... stringz.

While many of the artists appearances in the past have been fairly safe (past guests include Buddy Guy, Yolanda Adams, Milkshake, Hot Peas 'N Butter, Cathy Richardson, and Sweet Honey in the Rock to name a few,) Jack's appears to be making a leap this season, as next week there will also be an appearance by Jon Stewart (The Daily Show) along with Steven Drozd (Flaming Lips) backing old Blues Clues star Steve Burns in a special Groundhog's Day episode.

This is happening a lot, now that Generation X'ers have kids. Children's culture is having a renaissance of sorts. Music (Dan Zanes, the occasional Kidz Bop song,) television (see also Pancake Mountain) and books are all being tailored, in part, to reflect the parents taste. Reminds me of the 1970's, when the Baby Boomers started paying attention to kids and we got The Electric Company and Free to Be You and Me.

Of course, the majority of the programming and music is still crap, but you can find something palatable without having to search too hard now.

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Friday, January 19, 2007

Lifting the tariff

This coming Tuesday, once again, is the first big release day of the year, and to get a further jump on the action, here's a couple albums seeing release in the states for the first time next week, and both already in Rhapsody.

Fujiya & Miyagi's Transparent Things has been in Rhapsody for some time, but the album's been flying under the radar for the most part. F&M are a British duo from Brighton and disciples of Krautrockers Can and Neu!, with a driving relentless beat at times that reminds you of Talking Heads circa Fear of Music. The song "Collarbone" has been a cornerstone of year-end mixes I've received and since made, and now the whole album has finally seeped into my conscious. Well... it's not an album proper, it's more a collection of EPs from 2005 with some new material here and there, but good nonetheless

Album: Fujiya & Miyagi - Transparent Things

The other album is the latest from the Liverpool post-punk band Clinic. Visitations plays like rehash of much of some of their earlier stuff, with the sound of garage-punk meets Velvet Underground as recorded by Phil Spector. The Black Angels did a much better version of this sound this past year with Passover, but it's still worth the listen... 'cause it's Clinic, and you'll love it.

Album: Clinic - Visitations
Download: "Harvest (Within You)"
Download: "Jigsaw Man"

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The O.C.'s version of Fear Factor

We're down to five episodes left of The O.C., and while there are still plenty of balls in the air, you can sense a bit of a winding down. For instance, nearly every relationship that ended rocky last week (Taylor/Ryan, Summer/Seth, Kirsten/Julie) this found themselves mending despite incredible odds. It was almost like a Fear Factor episode, as in each case, a greatest fear was confronted and defeated.

Ryan wrote and (nearly) read a love (nearly) poem to Taylor. Can you imagine how many pencils he broke in a white-knuckle writing session? Kirsten had to tell a client that they may have contracted chlamydia from one of her escorts. In a bar... next to bottles of chardonnay, no less. And Seth, well, he had to actually go on a hike and confront nature searching for his spirit animal with Che. The horror!

As far as the music goes, Sufjan Stevens provided Che's theme with the song "Dear Mr. Supercomputer," a song which worries about technology and it's hold on society (I'm sure Che approves.) Meanwhile, all the scenes with Taylor's ex frenchie Henri featured songs in his countrys tongue, including one by the delectable Charlotte Gainsbourg, who not only has both a lovely voice and famous father (Serge Gainsbourg) but also a budding acting career (The Science of Sleep.) Elsewhere, Sparklehorse delivers the final song, "Return to Me," which has always sounded to me like an acoustic cover of Sia's "Breathe Me," which hauntingly ended the Six Feet Under series. Good company on both fronts.

Playlist: The O.C. - Episode 4.11
1. "Dear Mr. Supercomputer" - Sufjan Stevens - Seth finds Che in Summer's living room doing tai chi. Then again as Summer reads a letter from Che that he and Seth are going hiking in the forest.
2. "The New E Blues" - The Western State Motel (MySpace) - Seth and Summer are on their "date" in Summer's room.
3. "Garcon Glacon" - April March - Ryan shows up at Henri-Michel's hotel suite
4. "Du Temps" - The Low Standards (MySpace) - Taylor walks into Henri-Michel's hotel suite from her day at work.
5. "Hidden in the Sand" - Tally Hall - Seth's sweat hut-induced dream where he finds and saves his spirit animal.
6. "Tel Que Tu Es" - Charlotte Gainsbourg (MySpace) - Taylor enters Henri-Michel's hotel suite and finds a note from him.
7. "Return to Me" - Sparklehorse - Taylor meets up with Ryan in the backyard of The Cohen's house and they talk.

Previously: Rabbit, Run (Episode 4.10)

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The outing of Preston Burke

Last night was the conclusion to Grey's annual mid-season two-parter, but all that anyone can talk about is cast member Isaiah Washington and whether or not he's a homophobe. Well, John Mayer, of all people, has a treatment that just might solve everything: Why not have Washington's character come out to his colleagues as a gay man? (via Pop On The Top)

It's not a bad idea, when you think about it. If Washington is guilty of homophobia, this is sure to make him squirm through the remainder of his contract. Meanwhile, if he's completely innocent, then it'd be the kind of challenging role that could help his career. Mayer even contributed his own script ideas, to get the ball rolling:
INT: NIGHT, ON LOCATION

(THE RAMROD, A large rock club is packed to the rafters with energetic, bold looking twenty-somethings. On stage, an almost impossibly flamboyant group of performers are rocking out to a psychedelic beat that has the crowd whipped up into a primal frenzy.)

(CHRISTINA leans into the ear of PRESTON, struggling to be heard over the music)

CHRISTINA: I think it's really cool that you wanted to take us to a SCISSOR SISTERS concert, Burke! I gotta say, I never pegged you for the type. You're always talking about how much you love Ultimate Fighting Championships and Adult Video Award shows.
(CHRISTINA's eyes skitter from left to right, enlightened.)

Pretty much all the time, come to think of it.

BURKE: (cautiously) A friend of mine gave me their CD for Christmas. I figured I'd give it a listen. Turns out they weren't bad. They have a pleasant enough sound. Besides, I figured it would be nice to show you guys a fun time for once.

CUT TO:STAGE (The band plays the final exciting beats of "Kiss You Off". Jake Shears, The SCISSOR SISTERS lead singer [himself] takes the mic.)

JAKE: Thank you very muuuuuuch Seattle!!! This next song is called "I Don't Feel Like Dancing" and tonight, we want to send this song off to a very special man in the crowd, Preston Burke, webmaster of the biggest SISTERS fan site, idontfeellikedancing.com! Thanks Preston! The tea cookies you left backstage were deeelish!

(CROWD APPLAUDS WILDLY WHILE THE BAND LAUNCHES INTO THEIR HIT SINGLE. PRESTON, now downright sheepish, grabs his coat and small pleather DKNY bag, fumbling towards the exit.)

BURKE: I think I left a scalpel in that mime today. See ya!!!

And.... scene. Mayer even has a poison pill script idea to make sure Washington stays on board with the character change. Well played, Mr. Mayer... well played indeed.

Meanwhile, since it was a two-parter, I combined the two lists for convenience sake. Of note were the songs from Travis ("Love Will Come Through," which finished out last week's episode,) Regina Spektor ("Fidelity,") and for the ultimate tear-jerk scene Susanna & The Magical Orchestra covered Joy Division's "Love Will Tear Us Apart."

Grey's Anatomy - Episodes 11 & 12 (click for songs/listings)

Previously: Siamese Dream (Episode 3.10)

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Thursday, January 18, 2007

Exit the warrior, today's Tom Sawyer

So if you're ABC, and you have a smart new comedy that walks the line between Arrested Development's cleverness and My Name is Earl's populist approach, what do you do with it to make sure it grows an audience? If you said put it up against American Idol and let it sink or swim, I'm sure the network has bathroom key with your name on it.

While everyone else was watching wannabes butcher song after song in American Idol auditions, a select few of us watched the cast from The Knights of Prosperity butcher Rush's "Tom Sawyer" in hilarious fashion. The Knights were debating what should be their theme music when Eugene (Donal Logue) broke into that Rush classic. In reality, they have a theme song, composed by long time Letterman sidekick Paul Shaffer (Letterman's a producer.) It features actor Kevin Michael Richardson (pictured) on vocals and is a fine Isaac Hayes spoof:


As expected, though, the show was summarily trounced in the ratings by that 500 lb gorilla AI. So I guess that means we're on a Knights death watch from here on out, unless ABC decides to save it by giving it a chance in another time slot. In the meantime, you owe it yourselves to watch the first three episodes, streaming for free (ABC.)

Knights of Prosperity - Episode 1.03
1. "Tom Sawyer" - Rush
2. "Every Rose Has It's Thorn" - Poison

Previously: Breakbeat backdrop (Episode 1.01)

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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Hanging around

When I noticed that a new album from The Stranglers dropped yesterday (Suite XVI,) my hands got all sweaty and my head hurt. It was probably just the sinus infection I've been fighting off lately, but a proper comeback from the Guildford gents had me pretty excited. That is until I saw that there's still no sign of Hugh Cornwell, who's vocals and lyrics were a big part of what made The Stranglers such an important group in the punk movement. It's nice that they still play and all (drummer Jet Black is 68 years old!) but it's only worth a listen out of curiosity. Aside from the track "Summat Outanowt", there's really not much here. Makes you appreciate Mission of Burma's comeback even more.

Album: The Stranglers - Suite XVI

The best thing to happen as a result of this album dropping, though, is a renewed interest in The Stranglers of old (with Cornwell, of course.) Classics like Rattus Norvegicus and No More Heroes, a great live album [Live (X-Cert),] two singles collections (The UA Singles '77-'79, The UA Singles '77-'82) and a few others were all were added to Rhapsody this week (praise be!)

They began as The Guildford Stranglers in '74, playing at drummer Jet Black's off-license establishment in Guildford, Surrey. They were a pub rock band and took on a Doors influence when keyboardist Dave Greenfield joined the group in '75. Their run from '77 to '84 was great, and if they'd stopped then, there legacy would've been grander. Cornwell recognized the group was spent and left the group in 1990, but the band continued to limp on, unfortunately, under the same name.

Playlist: The Stranglers '77-'84

By 1977, The Stranglers were already in their late 20s (Jet Black was already 39,) but were able to overcome this hurdle by being associated with the punk movement, thanks in part to Cornwell's vocal snarl. Their live shows were renowned, as the band had been playing out relentlessly since their start so their first album Rattus Norvegicus was recorded to give a snapshot to this experience. "Hanging Around" is the perfect sample of the band... what instrumentally is a pop song becomes a punk classic with Cornwell's snarl, a vocal full of muscle and attitude. "Peaches" became their first hit, and is a good example of bassist JJ Burnel's influential sound. His aggresive sound was obtained using a Fender Precision Bass played with RotoSound roundwound strings, all through a Marshall Amp normally used for guitars. Burnel, along with Lemmy from Motorhead, helped bring that punchy sound to the forefront in underground rock.

Album: The Stranglers - Rattus Norvegicus

Widely considered their best album, No More Heroes (1977) was actually an album of leftovers from their first album, with a few new ones added to fill out the collection. Largely what makes this album so great is the the title track "No More Heroes", especially the opening lyrics from Hugh Cornwell:

Whatever happened to Leon Trotsky? /
He got an ice pick /
That made his ears burn /
Whatever happened to dear old Lenny? /
The great Elmyra and Sancho Panza? /
Whatever happened to the heroes? /
All the Shakespearoes? /
They watched their Rome burn
It almost makes sense to re-release these first two albums as one amazing double album, as it documents the band at the top of their game... the culmination of their nearly three solid years of playing live. While they never again reached this creative peak, several later albums were quite good, namely The Raven, La Folie and Aural Sculpture, producing great songs like "Nuclear Device," "Golden Brown," and "Skin Deep." After that, it's all downhill, I'm afraid.

Album: The Stranglers - No More Heroes

And here's testament to their live reputation, as they play "Hanging Around" for a BBC Goes to College segment:

This was filmed at Guildford University for a segment on BBC's "Rock Goes To College" series. Cornwell and the band were not happy that the show was only open to the privelaged students, hence the "we hate playing to elitist audiences" yell to end the song (and the show... they only played two songs.) (Behind the scenes video - YouTube.)

Soundtrack nuggets:
* "Golden Brown" was used in the Guy Ritchie film Snatch
* "Peaches" appears in the film Sexy Beast

Previously:
Novel Sndtrck: King Dork (features The Stranglers)

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