Thursday, May 28, 2009


Grizzly Bear
10 out of 10

Every so often something comes along that blindsides me. I love having low to no expectations for something and then finding that I probably can't imagine how my life would have been without it. And yes, music is such an intense part of my being, that there is some music I literally cannot live without. I have Grizzly Bear's last cd Yellow House, and, while it is a very good album, it really didn't do much for me at the time. I think I barely listened to it more than a couple of times. When I heard they had a new cd coming out, it was far down on my list of albums to purchase. Then I began seeing advance reviews for it and they were most, if not all, glowing. I checked out some live performances of the tracks on Youtube and was impressed, but not so much that I was going to go out of my way to buy the cd on the first day. Then there was the performance of first single "Two Weeks" on Letterman and the accompanying video. It just struck me, the attention to detail, the beautiful harmonies, and even the nod to Dr. Dre in the tinkling piano.

I immediately downloaded the cd and have listened to it at least twice a day, sometimes up to ten times a day. This cd to me is akin to Radiohead's OK Computer, where all the pieces were there in the previous releases, but they hadn't coalesced into something transcendent. The production is meticulous, but never fussy, each instrument and voice is placed perfectly, but not perfunctorily so, there is room for breath, room for surprise.

The first half of the cd is perfect in pacing and execution. Beginning with "Southern Point" an almost jaunty Crosby Stills and Nash sounding song, that begins unassuming and delicate and erupts into a swirling mass of Beach Boys harmonies, horns, percussion, and strings.

Then following through with the aforementioned "Two Weeks," and "All We Ask" leading to, in my opinion, the finest song they have put together, "Fine For Now." Containing odd harmonies, strangely tuned guitars, delicate percussion, and haunting background vocals, the song sticks in your head especially once it builds to the line "if we're faltering/how do I help with that/if it's all or nothing/then let me go." I love the small touches of electronics whirring in the background. This will likely be my single of the year. Everything about the song is perfect.

Some of the complaints about Veckatimest is that the second half of the cd pales in comparison to the brilliant first half. When I first listened to the cd, I felt the same way, but then I sort of stopped trying to compare the halves and took it for the whole that it was meant to be. The album is almost a life cycle. The first half is quick, to the point, and supremely focused. Once the middle is reached with "Cheerleader" it starts to get slower, more confused, but still full of life and wonderful random touches.

"Ready, Able" begins with a motorik beat and swirling harps, transforming to the end of the song into a hypnotic blend of chanting vocals, state fair organs, and chiming guitars.

The cd hits the contemplatative "About Face" and "Hold Still," which threaten to bring the momentum to a halt, but only act as a palette cleanser for the brilliant triptych of the final songs. "While You Wait For The Others" is probably the most "rock" song on the album, with relatively out of control guitars and goofy, funky vocals.

"I Live With You" starts with hushed strings and choirs and bluesy vocals, sounding like a mash up between the White Stripes and Bjork's more classical arrangements. The song reminds me a musical equivalent of Do Not Go Gentle In That Good Night once the song develops into an almost calliope-like madness.

And completing the cycle is perhaps their most touching and minimal song, "Foreground." Grounded with a beautiful piano melody and underscored with subtle strings, the song is just gorgeous. Just when you think it can't get any more beautiful, a swelling chorus emerges and the chillbumps take over. I haven't heard anything this stunningly beautiful since Bjork's "Unison."

Veckatimest is an important release. Every listen reveals something new and wonderful. There are times when I listen to it and I think I have overlistened to it and that it is not as good as I thought. Then one more listen dispels that notion. It is not the type of album that lends itself to singles. You have to listen to the whole thing from beginning to end in order to feel the full range of emotions associated with it. I beg everyone to give it a shot, it is very worth it.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Videos of the Week

Below are the latest videos that have caught my attention.

The Presets are an electroclash duo from Australia. I will admit that their usual output leaves me fairly cold. Overly harsh production and not a lot of attention to melody. Imagine my surprise when I caught this video for the single "If I Know You." It is an amazing song, and the singer actually sings. I have never heard a song that I could play back to back over 50 times and not get bored with. I only wish this song had found its way to me last year when it was released or it would been my top single of last year. Maybe I will have a separate category for best song that I just found out about. This song is so beautiful and has a very poignant video.

Pet Shop Boys are probably my all time favorite band. The new cd Yes is a nice return to form. Second single "Did You See Me Coming?" is a nice old-school PSB song. Great beat and airy melody.

Grizzly Bear started as an extremely low-fi band making music out of an apartment bedroom. Each subsequent release shows a decidedly ambitious side to the band. The latest cd Veckatimest is probably their most elaborate. First single "Two Weeks" is a wonderful song. The video is quietly disturbing.

Tortoise was an amazing band that pretty much defined the term math rock or post-post punk. They have recently reformed and this is the first single from their latest cd. This video has some of the most amazing compositions I have seen in awhile.

Royksopp returned this year with a gorgeous and fun cd. Here is the second single for "The Girl and The Robot" featuring Swedish chanteuse Robyn. Great song.

Asobi Seksu song that always puts a smile on my face, even though it is a fairly melancholy song. It reminds me of a lot of music I listened to at UGA.

Live performance from White Rabbits. Amazingly driving song. Sounds like a cross between Spoon and Radiohead. The drummers are brilliant.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Odd Sunday

Woke up this morning to an odd occurrence. Was sitting in the living room about to enjoy my coffee when all of a sudden I heard a terrific crash. Thinking my cat had knocked something over I ran into the bedroom, but did not find anything out of place. I walked into the bathroom and looked around and didn't see anything strange, but heard what sounded like water dripping from the shower head. So I thought for a second that the shower head had come off the wall. And looking at the door it looked like water was all over the glass until I looked closer and saw that the door had shattered, and that the sound was of the glass starting to break. As you can see from the pictures there is a huge hole in the glass, but nothing went through it. I am completely perplexed as to why it happened.

My Latin musclebear friend Jorge is coming over in a minute to help me out. Luckily he works for a company that manages condo associations, so he is my knight in shining armor. I definitely do not have the home improvement gene.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Beautiful Children

I've never been to Las Vegas. I have flown over it while on a flight from Minneapolis to Los Angeles and all I saw were vast columns of light shooting up from the desert floor, a striking image that has stayed with me a long time. I may never go to Las Vegas, so for the moment it will remain a bright and shiny object that is very pretty on the surface, and I may never know what lies beneath the surface. Charles Bock, on the other hand, grew up in Vegas and lends his expert eye to detailing all levels of society in his debut novel Beautiful Children. This was the selection for my latest book club,

We met over at Lee's house, however, it was woefully attended, with only Lee, me, Will, and Joshua. And Joshua didn't even finish the book. Yes, Josh, I am calling you out. Bad book clubber! The consensus between those of us that finished the book was that it was a solid B. It was a well crafted book that set up many different characters and interesting plot lines, however, the ending was unsatisfying because Bock failed to bring a sufficient resolution to the main conflict, and never showed the connection between the characters, which it seemed like he was attempting to do for the first half of the book, but disregarded in the second half.

The novel is set in present day Las Vegas, with the main plot line focusing on the disappearance of Newell, the 12 year old son of Lincoln, a former professional baseball player turned promotions executive for a big Las Vegas resort, and his wife Lorraine, a former Vegas stripper. Newell disappears after his parents let him go out on a Saturday night with his older friend Kenny, who is 16 and has a car. The novel slips back and forth between the present where Lincoln and Lorraine are struggling to live with the constant spectre of Newell's disappearance, and the night that Newell disappeared. The tension arises from the disconnect between these two time periods, both of which are hopefully leading to an explanation for the disappearance.

As a counterpoint to this central plot line, we are also introduced to many secondary characters, including Bix Biederbexxe, a cartoonist, Cheri Blossom and Ponyboy, a stripper and her punk boyfriend, and the bald girl, another young girl who finds herself hanging out with various slackers and layabouts, traveling the city in a old ice cream truck. Most of these characters end up circling and intersecting with each other, in some direct ways and in other more ephemeral ways.

Throughout the novel, Bock builds a vast overview of the different levels of society that makes up Las Vegas. He tends to focus primarily on the seedier side of Las Vegas, with its strip clubs, gambling halls, pawn shops, and porn producers. He shows a society built and sustained on getting and receiving pleasure and what people will go through and what people are willing to give up in order to attain it. It is a scathing assessment of our consumer-oriented society. Most of the people in the book are self-absorbed and only looking out for their own needs. Newell is shown to be a spoiled child who has no moral center. His disappearance does not come as a shock but merely as an inevitable action of his character.

Although this description makes the novel seem nihilistic, there are moments within where Bock shows fleeting instances of humanity, touching on how his characters are always human, and as such, they can not be purely good or purely evil. The bald girl meets a pregnant runaway who is strung out on drugs, but who collects milk cartons with her picture on them, so that she can always call her parents if things get too dire. Ponyboy, who is probably the most vile character, using his girlfriend's body as a platform for his get rich quick schemes, protects Cheri when a porn shoot gets out of hand.

Unfortunately, after painting this broad canvas, Bock gets trapped in the corner. Plot lines and characters that you think are going to have impact or will intersect never do, some characters leave the scene without much explanation, and the central plot line of the mystery of Newell's disappearance is not satisfactorily concluded. I read the last chapter several times in order to ascertain why Newell disappeared to no avail. Sometimes ambiguity is needed, but in this case it blunted the impact of the novel.

Aside from those small quibbles, Beautiful Children is very well written and is a fine debut showcasing the work of an emerging talent. He definitely is adept at highlighting the seedy underbelly that is hidden beneath the shiny surface that is Vegas. It makes me wonder if my nighttime flyover is probably the best vantage point to see the city. All shiny, bright and light filled, the darkness hidden away from view.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Non Sequiturs

Things you will always find on me:
Car/House Keys
Watch: I feel lost without a watch on. Even if I have my cell phone, which clearly states the time, I will still feel like I am missing a part of my arm.
Wallet: bi-fold. I hate tri fold wallets because the screw money up too much. And I don't like money clips because you have to attach everything to them and it just looks messy.
Some form of lip balm. Preferably Neutragena, but it is very hard to find so when I see it in the store I usually buy the whole lot. At the moment I have Carmex, which is vastly inferior but will do.

I abhor a mess. I cannot even stand going into someone's home or office if it is messy. Lord help me if it is unclean as well. One of my fellow quality control co-workers on this job has her own office and I was in there chatting with her and I kept looking around at the piles of papers that were everywhere. First of all, we are working via an online discovery platform, so why she has so much paper in her office I have no idea. Second, it is just strewn everywhere, with no sense of order. I almost had a mental breakdown in there. The urge to straighten it up was overwhelming. Even worse was imagining what her home looked like. I shudder at the thought.

Lyrics Rattling In My Brain:

"Clever liar, foolin' us all
Never thought I'd work it out
How could I have known it was ever about you boy?
Now there's nothin' to say, cos there's no words
And we're not talkin' anyhow
You must have known I was never to doubt you boy

If it was so fine, it was so good
Oh you're unbelievable
All this time I've been living without you boy
But not your lyin'
It felt so good, the world don't know
Now they'll never find out
How all these years she must've been beside you boy
Don't forget that I

Was the one that you found
And if I know you
You'll find me someplace new
I hope I never, I hope I never have to
We're a waste of time
And if I know you, learned long ago it's true
I hope I never, I hope I never have to."

"If I Know You"

"Do you have change or a button or cash?
Oh my pockets hang out like two surrender flags

Oh, but I'd pay anything to keep my conscience clean"

St. Vincent
"The Party"

"And I'm not worried that I will never touch the stars
'cos stars belong up in heaven
and the earth is where we are."


"Well did you hear, there's a natural order.
Those most deserving will end up with the most.
That the cream cannot help but always rise up to the top,
Well I say: Shit floats.
If you thought things had changed,
Friend you'd better think again,
Bluntly put in the fewest of words,
Cunts are still running the world,

Jarvis Cocker
"Cunts Are Still Running The World"

Appealing things:

Cool Spring weather
Rain on a tin roof
Chicago Bruce
The new Star Trek movie
Driving home with the windows down
My friend John actually taking pictures of me that I like
Waking up in someone's arms
Complete and utter silence

Annoying Things:

The security lights on the building next door that are mis-aimed into my loft....on the 4th floor!
Messy people (see above)
The movie theater at Phipps. Update it please. It's called stadium seating...look into it.
My towels that I bought last year that are already smelling sour. I paid a fortune for them, what gives!
The office building I work in not turning the air on until 2 hours after I get in.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Videos of the Week

Sorry I have been lax this week with posts. Last week was a bit nightmarish work-wise and didn't have the energy to post anything. Here are the videos from last week that struck my interest. Going to branch out a little and stray from just pure music videos. There will now be videos of anything that caught my eye. I had more in here, but the blog for some reason will not post the links.

It has been raining here in Atlanta for many weeks now. We've had very few sunny days so things have been rather gloomy as of late. Hard to complain since last year we had a severe drought. So in order to counteract the gloomy effect, I looked for videos that put a smile on my face:

Sadly, Junior Senior have broken up, but they left us with two really fun cds. This was their first single "Move Your Feet." It has a really sunny melody and always makes me feel good. Plus it has a zany animated video that cracks me up.

Goofy video from Love is All. Sounds like a demented Cyndi Lauper. Well, a more demented Cyndi Lauper.

The next video is not in the happy category, but comes from one of my favorite artists of the moment, St. Vincent. This is the first single from her wonderful new cd Actor.

White Rabbits are an interesting band, very hard to peg into one category if you listen to their cds. They sort of take the everything but the kitchen sink approach. They sort of sound like a more tribal Radiohead. The two drummers are amazing.

Peaches is filthy, raunchy, and irresistable. Here is the new video for her song "More."

Animal Collective have never been a favorite of mine. My friend Matthew loves them and is always trying to convince me that I should too. I have listened to their new cd countless times and just don't get it still. I do like the song "Summertime Clothes." Here is a fun performance of the song on Letterman.

More embedding problems for the actual music video for this song, so here is a live version. It's all programmed music anyway, so the music is the same. Great song though. Was recently listening to Nitzer Ebb's cd Belief, which is a classic industrial cd.

New artist from Britain called La Roux. Sounds a lot like Robyn. Not great, but has a catchy chorus and a pretty cool video.

New video from buzz band of the moment, Phoenix. Pretty good for a French rock band, since usually they suck. Interesting video.

Pulp hasn't released a cd in ages, so we are left with the brilliant Jarvis Cocker to provide us with solo material. Of course, since he basically was Pulp, there isn't much change. This is a live performance of the song "Dishes" from the cd This Is Hardcore. It's a wonderful song with some great lyrics. "Though I'm not Jesus, I have the same initials" and "I'm not worried that I will never touch the stars, the stars belong up in heaven, but the earth is where we are."

We end this post with Buddy Cole!!!!! So damn funny.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


St. Vincent
9 out of 10

Do you remember the scene in 9 to 5 where the women are fantasizing about how they would kill Mr. Hart and Lily Tomlin's character imagines a fairy tale world where everything is gruesome and gory, but a little bit sweet? Well, somehow I feel that St. Vincent is channeling that sentiment on her second release Actor.

Over swirling loops of strings and her own cooing voice, Actor begins with the song "The Strangers" which sounds like a lost Disney ballad. Although the music is bright and cheerful, this mood is betrayed by the narrator who is chastising her lover who she has become bored with, telling herself to "paint the black hole blacker" and dismissing him with lines like "desperate doesn't look good on you/neither does your virtue."

Actor essentially becomes the musical equivalent of movies such as American Beauty and Revolutionary Road, wherein the seemingly calm and beautiful surface hides discontent beneath. Time and time again St. Vincent puts forth music of such beauty and subverts it with a narrator that is seething underneath. The housewife in "Save Me From What I Want" is a "wife in watercolors/I can wash away/what seventeen cold showers/couldn't wash away."

In "Laughing With A Mouth of Blood" a woman who appears to have left an abusive spouse/lover muses that by leaving her situation she has become a pariah and "all my old friends aren't so friendly/and all my haunts are now all haunting me."

"The Neighbors" contemplates a woman who could easily be Kate Winslet in Revolutionary Road, slowly losing sense of herself and her purpose "How can Monday be alright/Then on Tuesday lose my mind/Tomorrow's some kind of stranger/Who I am not supposed to see."

"The Party" details a party that the narrator finds stultifying, going through her mind trying to keep from saying or doing anything inappropriate to cure the boredom; "Do you have any change or button or cash?/Oh my pockets hang out like two surrender flags/Oh, but I'd pay anything to keep my conscience clean."

This is perhaps one of the best Cd's to be released this year, so full of nuance and subtlety. St. Vincent's command of the music and her lyrical conceits is breathtaking and exciting. Each listen reveals more and more to the listener. What seems to be a throwaway phrase or slight melody, shows itself to be a linchpin of the entire song. Rarely have I been this enraptured by a new CD, and this one is definitely going to find itself in my top ten for the year. Actor is essential listening for those that enjoy challenging music.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Summer of Hate

The Crocodiles
Summer of Hate
3 out of 10

Last week I reviewed the new cd by The Horrors. They changed their style from a punkabilly psych rock sound to a sound that brings to mind everyone from Joy Division, Jesus and Mary Chain, Neu!, Can, and My Bloody Valentine. Instead of spot the influence, the band merged each sound and created its own distinct sound. While you can still hear certain aspects of those bands in their music, it never reaches the level of plagiarism. What happens in the opposite case, where a band just apes their influences and doesn't create anything special or meaningful? There I think you get a band like The Crocodiles.

They exploded onto the scene last year with a fuzzy Wire like single called "Neon Jesus."

It has it's charms and led many people to eagerly anticipate the release of Summer of Hate. The lead single off the album is called "I Wanna Kill" that oddly doesn't even seem to try and hide the fact that it cops verbatim the melody, drum track, and synth bass from Jesus and Mary Chain's "Head On." I compared the two together and it is shocking how similar they are. As an intellectual property attorney, if JAMC wishes to file suit I will be more than happy to take them on as a client.

Then if aping JAMC was not enough, there are a string of songs that sound cribbed from the Spaceman 3/Spirtualized stoner drone rock camp; for example "Summer of Hate," "Sleeping with the Lord," and "Here Comes the Sky."

Every so often there are a few songs that show that they have some originality, however, usually it is pretty fleeting. "Refuse Angels" has a kinetic beat and frantic sound.

And "Young Drugs" uses a simple drum machine and analog synth to create a pleasing homage to 80s synth pop bands.

If they had stuck to their strengths and not relied so heavily on their influences, this could have been a good release. But since they didn't, it is a forgettable debut. I can only hope they follow the path of The Horrors and listen to their own true sound and come up with something to far surpass this dreck.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Non Sequiturs

My life at this point is all bizarre. Sometimes I have no idea if I am coming or going. I have worked four weeks straight without a day off and worked 120 hours one week and 70 the other three. I'm a bit fried. Because the office I am contracting at does not provide us with individual Internet access, it has made even the most basic daily tasks very difficult. I have been amazed at how over the last 10 years we have become so dependent on the Internet. When you don't have immediate access it is frustrating when you want to look something up and can't. As a result my posts here have been intermittent at best. I am trying to catch up, but it is not easy.

I'm doing something different for this edition of Non Sequiturs. Instead of the usual, here is just a list of interesting facts:

* I hate pickles and anything pickled. Raisins as well. They are evil and must be destroyed.

* I am punctual to the point of it almost being a sickness.

* I am a Mac person. I hate PCs.

* I have over 5000 cds. But I have not bought a cd in over 5 years. I love iTunes.

* I feel most at home in New York City, but I will always be a true southern boy.

* Although I love New York, my favorite city is Venice.

* I love to cook, but hate to clean up afterwards. Oddly enough though, I love to clean, just not the remains of food.

* I could eat sushi, Thai, or Mexican food every day of the week and never get tired of it.

* It annoys me to no end when people mess up "your" and "you're," "its" and it's," and "their" and "there."

* In law school I was obsessed with the Blue Book.

* I love the smell of coffee, but I hate the taste.

* As a kid I used to love reading the encyclopedia.

* If I were a hot sexy mama, I would be Foxy Brown.

* I don't spend lots of time thinking about purchases. I generally buy them and then if I have a crisis of conscience I just return it.

* I do believe an apple a day keeps the doctor away.

* I don't believe in fate or destiny. I often say that things happen for a reason, but I don't really believe that either. Things just happen; it's what you choose to do in reaction to those things that matters.

* I wish I were Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I just love that show.

* In direct contrast with my current musical taste, I used to love heavy metal as a kid. I had all the KISS albums, on vinyl; even the horrible solo albums.

* I would like to be in a relationship, but something tells me it is just not in the cards for me.

* I wish I had more time to read.

* I love my cat but, once she is gone, I don't think I will get another one.

* I allow small things to really bother me; even to the point where I will stay up all night thinking about them.

* I would much rather go into work at 5 a.m. then to have to stay at work until after 5 p.m.

* On the way to work I pass by the Pine Street Mission which provides meals for the homeless. Although I think they are doing a wonderful job, it is in an area of town that is blighted because of the people it attracts. It bothers me that this bothers me so much.

* I didn't see my mother's side of the family for over eight years because one of my aunts used to send me emails that contained speeches by Jerry Falwell condemning gay people. I hated that I took my anger out on other members of the family because of the actions of one, but I just couldn't bear to go over there knowing that someone in the room would hate me if they knew I was gay. I only saw them recently because my aunt Avanelle passed away. She was one of the sweetest people ever put on this planet and I wanted to pay her my respects.

* I truly enjoy being gay. If it were a choice, I think I would probably choose it.

That's about it for this post. I am tired and want to watch my Buffy DVDs. :)

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Videos of the Week

Here are the videos that drew my attention this week:

"Who Can Say" is the second single off The Horrors' second cd Primary Colours. It is not the total reinvention that "Sea Within A Sea" was, but it takes their basic sound and updates it to a more sophisticated level. I am not a fan of the spoken word part towards the end of the song, but it is not as grating as I once thought it was.

"Another World" is one of my favorite songs off Antony's second cd, The Crying Light. It is a mournful, haunting song and Antony performs it so well on this clip from the Late Show with Craig Ferguson.

Comet Gain are a British band that have been around for about 20 years but not many people have heard of. The have an interesting style that recalls the heyday of bands like Orange Juice and Felt. There is something very old school and fun about the video. I hope they get a little more exposure with their latest cd, Broken Record Prayers, which is a compilation of their best songs and b-sides.

Amazing song from Pains of Being Pure at Heart. This is another fun, old school video. Reminds me of half of the indie band videos we used to watch in college on 120 Minutes on Sunday nights.

Futuristic video from The Juan Maclean, for a song that reminds me alot of old Human League.

Latest single from Morrissey. It's not a great song, but it's always good to see him perform live. Although, the audience seems almost comatose, which must have been because it was a taping for a television show. In a real setting, the Moz fans are brutal. I got caught in a feeding frenzy at one show when Moz tore his shirt off and threw it in the audience. I barely made it out alive.

This is a great video from last year. Nothing going on with it, I just enjoy it and wanted to see it again.