Archive | May, 2011

Day 82: Linda Perhacs – Parallelograms

21 May

 Parallelograms

I’ve been focusing on the negative aspects of Swole Ear a lot lately.  Sure, this blog has its disadvantages.  It’s a ton of work for me, and I can’t truly judge any of these albums fairly. But this blog has had its advantages as well. In this sea of recent negativity, I’ve forgotten the reason that I started this project.  I wanted to discover new music, to listen to genres that I didn’t know existed, and artists that I would never come across otherwise.  Let’s take Linda Perhacs, for example.  This woman made one album in the ’70s, and then pretty much fell off of the face of the earth.  Her single release, Parallelograms, was rediscovered by what I’m assuming were vinyl-loving hipsters a few years back, and Perhacs suddenly received a bit of popularity that evaded her 35 years before.

Now, for the album.  You can really tell that this thing came out in the ’70s.  We’ve uncovered yet another record that doesn’t work with the Swole Ear format (yeah, that’s four in a row, if you’re keeping track).  Perhacs’ brand of spacy psych-folk is great for spacing out, but not so great for listening to intently.  I did it though.  I’m such a freaking trooper.

I honestly had no idea what to expect going into this.  Parallelograms was described as “psych-folk” to me, but I really didn’t know what that meant.  It turns out that it’s a pretty accurate way to describe this music.  Perhacs relies mostly on her vocals and an acoustic guitar—the folk aspect — while the trippy song arrangements and far-out lyrics give it that psych flavor.  It’s an interesting record, and there’s no way that I would have given it a chance if it weren’t for Swole Ear.  Oh, and last.fm friend boyswhoblush, this is just one of those pieces of music that can’t be judged by the first listen.

Advertisements

Day 81: Gold Panda – Lucky Shiner

20 May

Snow & Taxis

It turns out that a lot of what I wrote yesterday about The Glitch Mob applies today as well.  While Gold Panda’s Lucky Shiner leans towards the chillwave side of the electronic music spectrum, as opposed to the IDM side as does Drink The Sea, it’s yet another album that should not be listened to with the intent to analyze. But, that’s what I have to do for this project, which makes it fairly boring for me.  Who knows, maybe that means that I’m not cut out to review records.  Or, even more likely, I’m not meant to listen to a new album every single freaking day.  I’ve made it this far, though; I’m not going to stop.  I am not one to back down from a ridiculously stupid task.

Believe me, I love me some chillwave.  It’s great to relax to, and really easy to get lost in.  Derwin Panda (yes, that is his real name), doesn’t try to reinvent the genre.  He doesn’t need to, though, as he has a great ear for what works in chillwave, and a knack for getting that out in his music.

Reverb heavy synths, calm-but-awesome beats, and samples dominate Panda’s tunes.  The record’s lack of any vocals whatsoever give it an even more relaxing feel than lots of chillwave already out there.  I don’t know why, but when music has vocals, I find myself much more actively involved in the listening.  By not including any singing in his work, Panda lets the bleeps and bloops speak for themselves, which they do very effectively.  I’d much rather zone out to a record like Lucky Shiner than write about it, but alas, the Swole Ear project does not allow for that.

Day 80: The Glitch Mob – Drink the Sea

19 May

Fistful of Silence 

The acronym “IDM” (which stands for intelligent dance music, plebs), has always bothered me.  Hipsters, it’s like you’ve given up on trying to disguise your pretentiousness when you use a label like that.  Don’t get me wrong, I like a lot of music associated with the acronym, but c’mon, there’s hardly anything more obnoxious than referring to your music as “intelligent.” By calling your dance music “intelligent,” you’re essentially calling all other dance music “unintelligent.”  Though this is often the case, don’t reinforce the stereotype.  I’m not saying that “IDM” is an inaccurate way to describe some of this music, but there has got to be a less in-your-face-look-at-me way to do it.

 Anyway, I digress.  I just saw that “idm” tag when I looked up The Glitch Mob on last.fm, and had to get that off my chest.

I like The Glitch Mob.  I like large portions of Drink the Sea.  My biggest problem with this record—a common problem with dance music—is that it goes on for waaaaay too long.  In smaller portions, like one or two tracks, pretty much anything from Drink the Sea is great.  It’s just hard to sit and listen to an entire record like this.

And with that, we stumble upon yet another problem with the Swole Ear format.  Not all records should be listened to in a prone position while being analytically attacked.  There are some albums that do best when on in the background.  If I were looking to zone out for an hour (believe me, we all need to every now and then), Drink the Sea is definitely something that I would put on to help me out.   It’s hard to get through otherwise, though.

Day 79: Man Man – Six Demon Bag

18 May

Ice Dogs

I was a little worried right after I double-clicked Feathers, the opener to Man Man’s  Six Demon Bag, in my Swole Ear iTunes library.  I always write about how much I like creativity in my music, but it seemed like Man Man were about to take that to whole new levels.  I found the somber piano and Tom Waits-esque group vocals a little off-putting at first.  They were unlike anything I had listened to for this project, and I wasn’t sure how I would be feeling about this album as a whole. Underneath this worry, though, I couldn’t escape the fact that, for some reason, I really liked what I was hearing.

I figured that Feathers may have been a weird intro of some sort, and the real Man Man would reveal itself as the album progressed.  I soon found that I was completely wrong, and I’m actually glad that I was.

Man Man is weird; there’s no way around that.  They make music that wouldn’t sound out of place at a sketchy carnival in the 40s. The band has a kind of dark, mysterious sound, that made me think of The Decemberists’ evil twin.

Lead talker Honus Honus (don’t worry, his real name is Ryan Kattner) is really the reason that Man Man has such a dark sound.  His voice will definitely throw you off at first, and if you’re like me, that effect isn’t going to wear off for the duration of the album.   It’s gravelley, shaky, and really gives the music a personality.

I’m actually not sure if I like Six Demon Bag at the moment.  It definitely scores points for being unique and having its own sound, but is that the only reason I like it?  A few more listens should reveal the answer.

Day 78: Graham Parker – Squeezing Out Sparks

17 May

Protection

My dad has been on an Elvis Costello kick lately.  Yeah, I love that Costello record that I listened to a couple of weeks ago, but I had no idea that there were so many people inspired—pretty directly—by that guy.  The past two dad-rock records have sounded like Costello impersonators made them.  Originality is a big deal for me, but I’m also far too lazy to do the research that would be required to form some kind of English pub-singer time line.  I may have been a bit unfair last week when I panned Joe Jackson.  He just sounded really unoriginal to me.  I’ll try to avoid that this Dad-Rock Tuesday, and judge Graham Parker’s Squeezing Out Sparks based solely on what went into my ears.

When it comes down to it, I don’t mind Graham Parker.  Yeah, I’d probably survive if I never heard Squeezing Out Sparks again, but it’s not like this was an unpleasant listening experience.

Parker’s got a unique enough voice to keep me interested.  At first listen, it sounded like his lyrics were decent too.  Unfortunately, as happens far too often with Swole Ear, I don’t have enough time to closely examine lyrics.  There just aren’t enough hours in the day to really tear a record apart.

Instrumentally, Parker was good enough as well; it’s all pretty standard.  Guitar, drums and vocals dominate over the record, and never go too far out of the box.  It’s nothing brilliant, but they get the job done.

Ultimately, this record—just like this post—is adequate.  Neither are awful, but let’s just say that they won’t be making the Swole Ear Hall of Fame.

Day 77: Holy Fuck – LP

16 May

Milkshake

Well, at least they’re up front with you.  The main reaction that I had while listening to this record was in fact “holy fuck.”  Other reactions included “what the hell is going on?,” “what am I hearing?,” “mommy, make it stop,”   and “wait, this is actually kind of good.”

It’s hard for me to judge bands like Holy Fuck.  They’re a group that does their own thing, and doesn’t conform to any of the standards of typical music, which can be both a good and bad thing.  Holy Fuck doesn’t let a preconceived idea of what is or isn’t “music” take control.  So on one side, this stuff should score some major points with me because it’s so original, but that’s no reason to love a band.  Sure, originality is great, but sometimes no one has done it before for a reason.  Believe it or not, it’s harder than it should be to tell the difference between the natural evolution of music, and just plain stupidity.

So I’ve only got one thing to go off of with Holy Fuck: do I like the way it sounds?  After giving the cleverly named LP one listen, I think the answer is yes.

Holy Fuck’s goal is simple: make electronic music without today’s equipment.   I interpret that as meaning one thing: “no laptops.” The band employs everything from ancient keyboards to toy phaser guns in making their strange, danceable sounds. When it comes down to it, even though I’ve never really heard anything quite like it before, LP is kind of awesome.

Day 76: The Lonely Island – Turtleneck & Chain

15 May

Rocky

Turtleneck & Chain was released on a major label, consists of hip-hop based comedy, and cannot be described by the word “indie” in any way, shape or form.  This is why it’s insane that The Lonely Island has put together the best record that I’ve listened to for Swole Ear yet. Holy crap, these guys never disappoint.  I feel that words (especially mine) can’t come close to describing the 39 minutes of hilarity that is Turtleneck & Chain, so I apologize in advance.

Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer, and Jorma Taccone are the kings of comedy in the eyes of this 17-year-old male.  Yeah, with jams like Trouble on Dookie Island, I’m aware that I am their target audience.  I do not care.

What makes these guys so great is their absurdity.  This trio takes everything that they make songs about to the extreme, and then find a way to go a little further.  Look at any track, and you’ll see what I mean. For the sake of this post, however, let’s examine We’re Back, the album opener.  Samberg and company announce their majestic return to the album format by rapping—for close to two minutes—about their extremely deformed penises.  They take it even further, as they discuss fan fictions that they’ve written involving romantic relationships between Garfield and Marmaduke.  “I would like to see that! This that Garfield sex music!”

They’re unrelenting from that point forward.  They pay homage to Aaron Carter’s That’s How I Beat Shaq in Rocky, a song about Samberg fighting, losing, and dying at the hands of Rocky Balboa. “I was quivering and twitching when I soiled my shorts/then Rocky pissed on me, customary in sports.”  Threw It On The Ground, a song about taking non-conformism to the extreme, ends with Samberg being repetitively tasered in his “butthole.”

The only problem with Turtleneck & Chain is that I had the opportunity to wear much of it out before ever listening to it.  A few tracks on the record have already had videos made for them, and don’t hold up as stand-alone songs.  It’s also easy to tell that certain songs will work much better when videos are made for them.  Attracted to Us, for instance, rattles off a series of female-types that must be attracted to the band members.  The song seems a little too random on the record, but will probably work when played over a montage of ladies with disgusted looks on their faces. Thankfully, I’m sure we’ll see that within a year.

If there’s one thing that The Lonely Island is known for other than its videos, it’s the powerful guest vocalists that frequently help out. Snoop Dogg, Rihanna, Beck, and Justin Timberlake all lend a hand on Turtleneck & Chain.  My favorite guest appearance belongs to Michael Bolton.  This is the first—and god willing the last—time I have ever liked a Michael Bolton song.  Jack Sparrow sees the guys recording a generic club-rap song, with Bolton interjecting every now and then with dramatic Pirates of the Caribbean related ballads.  Someone at Universal probably told the band that they had to make a Pirates tie-in, which they managed to turn into something hilarious.  And that’s exactly what I love about The Lonely Island, these guys can make anything funny.

Day 75: Collective Soul – Collective Soul

14 May

Untitled

I’ve said it before, and I’m sure this is not the last time that I’ll fall back on this excuse: 365 is a big number.  It’s also the number of records that I need to listen to—in as many days—for this blog to be considered a success.  So, like a million monkeys with typewriters will eventually produce the works of Shakespeare, I was bound to check out mid-nineties mainstream rock sooner or later.  Thanks ptchfrkabortion.

 Believe it or not, I don’t mind this record too much.  Yeah, I probably won’t be adding it to any “Greatest of All Time” lists, but Collective Soul gets the job done.  It’s very clear when listening to their eponymous release that this band understands its purpose—make basic, catchy, rock songs.   They don’t try anything too outside of the box on this record, as they stick to fairly standard song structure and lyrics.  However, that does detract from any ability that they have to really draw me in. Collective Soul isn’t around for people like me, though.  Collective Soul is meant to play in big arenas to legions of fans who know every lyric.

Honestly, if this were what all mainstream rock was like, we would live in a much better world.  Fact.  I, for one, would be far less ashamed to identify with the rock genre than I currently am.  For example, when asked what type of music I like by someone who is a bit musically ignant, I hate responding with “rock.”  This is because, fairly frequently, they’ll reply with something along the lines of “Oh, like Nickelback?”

No.  Not like Nickelback.  Anyway, if they were to say “Oh, like Collective Soul?”  I’d be much more likely to smile and nod, and far less likely to feel the need to defend my musical honor.

Day 74: Why? – Alopecia

13 May

Good Friday

I’ve been complaining about indie rock a lot lately.  Everything that falls within the genre has sounded trite and generic to me, which is frustrating, mainly because “indie rock” is such a vague way to describe music anyway.  There are so many different bands and styles out there that fall under the huge “indie rock” umbrella, but all I’ve heard as of late from this genre is hardly original.

And then, Why? came along.

Alopecia is like nothing I’ve ever heard before, but also an obvious member of the indie rock family.  In other words, it’s exactly what I’ve been looking for.

Let’s go surface level for a second.  Look at that band name.  It has a question mark.  Why? was already scoring points with me even before I listened to the first song.

They’ve got much more than unconventional punctuation, though.  Why? doesn’t succumb to what have become the standard indie rock conventions. Boyswhoblush, the Last.fm friend who recommended Alopecia, described this group as “hard to describe,” and I’ve gotta agree.  I’ll do my best, though.  Indie-folk-psych-hop, perhaps?  Yeah, that’s what I’ll go with.

Front man Yoni Wolf (yes, he is the son of a rabbi) is the reason for Why?’s awesomeness.  He switches seamlessly between indie sing-talking, and straight-up rapping.  And it never get’s old.  He contributes directly to the variety of music that you get when you listen to a Why? album.  His delivery is all over the place, but always great, which definitely keeps the record interesting.  His awesome lyrics shine on my favorite track, Good Friday.  I’m probably going to link to this blog on college applications, so there’s no way I’m going to quote my favorite line, but let me tell you, it’s brilliant.  Why? is definitely a band that I need to hear from again.

Day 73: White Lies – To Lose My Life…

12 May

Fifty On Our Foreheads

I thought I’d mix things up a bit on Swole Ear today.

Psych.  Here’s another indie rock band.  Yes, they are also playing at Lollapalooza.

And here comes another shocker.

I don’t like them very much.

I’ve complained about new wave before.  Something that bothers me even more is when bands try to bring it back (does that make White Lies post-new wave? New new wave?) Look no further than the song Fifty On Our Foreheads, and you’ll see what I mean.  There are enough annoying synths and cheeseball lyrics to make you not recall the ’80s quite so fondly.   “The moonlight licked the face of danger/Innocence made us like soldiers/Untouchable and golden/The quilt of darkness dotted with our teardrops.” Oy.

Foreheads is essentially the entire record exaggerated.  While nothing else reaches that level of awful (From the Stars comes close), that one song has everything that makes To Lose My Life… bad, all mashed into a single track.  The record as a whole is boring, corny, and worst of all, uses the wrong kind of melodrama—actual, sincere melodrama.  When this form of rhetoric (guess who just took an AP English test) is used as a form of self-mockery, I can totally get behind it; it’s often pretty funny.  However, when it’s actual self-pity –not much gets more annoying than that.

Ultimately, White Lies is just yet another generic indie rock band that falls short.  To Lose My Life… could have easily been made by The Bravery, which is by no means a compliment.  White Lies not only bring nothing new to the table; they also emulate the really annoying stuff that’s already out there.