Archive | July, 2011

Day 153: YACHT – See Mystery Lights

31 Jul

Psychic City

I was called out in the comment section of yesterday’s Foxy Shazam post.  Essentially, I was brutally attacked because of the double standards that I place on the music that I listen to.  I sometimes dislike music for having “perfect vocals,” while I’ll let some with this quality slide right past my critical eagle eyes.  What do I have to say to this, as well as to my dissenters, you may ask?

Haters gon hate.

Now, as for the reason that this blog exists: a seventeen-year-old wanted to do something with his love of music, and may have gotten himself in a bit over his head.  Not willing to back down, he types the first thing that comes into his head while listening to these records, with no regard for anything else that he’s ever written.

See, he’s willing to use stuff like this to take up half of a post.

Anyway.  YACHT.

Indie bands are (slowly) moving away from the guitar-dominated rock sound that they’ve had since lord knows when.  Some purists say nay to this movement, but I say bring it on.  Sure, (looking back on my initial dislike of LCD Soundsystem) I don’t always love this new type of music, but it takes a fairly special or well-done rock album these days for me not to be bored.

When this new music is good, it can be really interesting.  So far, we’ve got groups like tUnE-yArDs, Baths, and now YACHT.  All three of these acts would have sounded extremely out of place ten years ago in the garage rock dominated scene, but they’re finding themselves accepted today.

This record is completely electronic; even samples of recognizable instruments are fairly limited.  It’s got a unique sound, and it’s fairly hard to describe, so the blanket statement of “electronic” is going to have to work. Deal wit it.

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Day 152: Foxy Shazam – Foxy Shazam

30 Jul

Killin’ It

And we’re back.  I know, I know, you all have desperately missed the reliability and punctuality that you’ve come to love and expect from Swole Ear.  Well, I’ve returned from the wilderness that is Northfield, Minnesota, and am back in the Chi-ish.  Hopefully, Carleton College’s Summer Writing Program has worked some kind of miracle, and this blog will turn into something worth your time.

But probably not.  Anyway, here’s what I think about Foxy Shazam.

You know how sometimes, you can just tell that you’re going to love a record based on the first few seconds of the opening track?  Well, that’s not the case here.  This record opens with about 30 seconds of a couple of dogs barking.  Those woofs and barks slowly synchronize, and then melt away into a powerful, arena ready, mosh-tastic stream of over-the-top happiness.  I knew that I was going to love this record based on the first minute and a half.

You know me; I’m a sucker for catchy hooks, enthusiastic vocals, and an overall sense of happy.  That’s exactly what I got out of Foxy Shazam’s Foxy Shazam.  This record is relentless.  It pounds you over the head with rainbows and sunshine (if you ignore a lot of the lyrics) for all of its 43 minutes.  It’s pretty much screaming “YOU WILL LOVE ME” with a Heath Ledger Joker style grin on its face.  And guess what, you will love it, unless you’re devoid of a soul.

Sure, lots of the lyrics deal with breakups and the suckyness of life.  On the other hand, a good portion are about happiness and bright futures.  Ultimately, this record bleeds pure awesome, and if you don’t like it, I don’t like you.


Day 151: Pink Floyd – The Dark Side of the Moon

29 Jul

Us and Them

Hype.  Hype, hype, hype.  According to about every single person in the world (well, at least every teenage stoner that think’s they’re the next Aristotle), this is the greatest record in history.  Never has a better piece of music existed, nor will one ever be created.  Essentially, we can stop listening to anything new, because this record right here is the pinnacle of our existence.

Now, I’ve only heard bits and pieces of Dark Side before, but I cannot stand nonsense like that.  So what have I done? I’ve talked about how it’s okay, but vastly overrated.  Yeah, I know I shouldn’t do stuff like that, but the praise that this album receives is so obnoxious.

Anyway, I figured that it was about time for me to check this record out; time to actually know what I’m hating on.

As it turns out, I wasn’t so far off in my original unqualified diagnosis.

Dark Side is okay! It really is!  I kind of enjoyed it!  There are parts that I liked, and others that I did not!  There is nothing wrong with listening to and appreciating this record, really.  IT’S JUST NOT AS AMAZING AS ALL OF YOU PEOPLE SAY IT IS.

 I guess this goes back to my dislike of prog rock a bit, too.  It’s often vastly overrated.

The big point that I want to make here is that claiming a record is the greatest of all time is nothing short of moronic.  As much as it pains me to acknowledge this, music taste is subjective. People will always like what one considers bad, and vice-versa.  Get over it.  If someone doesn’t deeply love what you claim to be the meaning of life (which seriously should not be an album), move on with your life.

 

Day 150: Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven

28 Jul

Storm

Post-rock.  Not a subgenre that I consider myself all too familiar with.  That needs to change, though.  Godspeed is freaking good.

This was a very strange record for me.  There are four tracks in total, yet it clocks in at almost an hour and a half.  Each track is made up of a bunch of different movements or whatever, all with their own crazy musical names that go right over my head.

There ain’t no vocals, either.   At all.  That’s another weird thing.  I did know that would be the case going in, otherwise I would have been thinking something along the lines of “where are the words?” for the entire record.

Essentially, this is classical music through an indie rock filter.   There’s plenty of guitar and whatnot, along with some acoustic instruments that I consider “classical” (violin and others).  Some knowledge of instruments or music in general could really help me not sound like a complete dumbass here.  Oh well.

So, I bet you’re thinking that this doesn’t sound like a record that I would like.  I’m just as surprised as you.  It’s unbelievably catchy at points, and never really gets boring.  It’s also fairly easy to listen to.  Essentially, Skinny Fists is perfect background music.  I’m not sure if I would want to sit in silence and listen to this record, but it’s good for when focusing on something else. 

Oh, by the way, I’m getting home from writing camp tomorrow.  Expect the blog to be back to it’s normal standard of excellence.  I realize that my posts have kind of sucked over the past three weeks.

Day 149: Modest Mouse – The Moon & Antarctica

27 Jul

Dark Center of the Universe

I hate on normal indie a lot here.  Maybe I should stop that because this record is pretty good.

As far as indie rock goes, you can’t get much more standard than Modest Mouse.  Basic set up, basic instrumentation, trademark offbeat singer, everything here is in place for another blasé, uninspired band of twenty-somethings.  Something sets these guys apart, though.

I guess this record came out before the huge indie rush of the past decade or so.  This was originally released in 2000, and it sounds exactly like what many bands are trying to emulate today.  I know that I’ve disliked music for this reason before, which is why I’m confused about my enjoyment of The Moon & Antarctica.  

Maybe it’s just that it’s good.  Or maybe it’s that, once again, it’s 12:25 in the morning, and I am more sleep deprived than I’ve ever been in my life—oh man, college is going to be a blast.   No, I don’t regret ordering Dominos half an hour ago, and then watching Rainbow Bright for twenty minutes.

Lack of sleep aside, I do think this record is pretty solid.  I’ve got to stop hating on music just because it sounds like other music.  Especially when what I’m hating on is the stuff that came first.  Maybe I just need to listen to everything on the later side.  I’ve had very few negative posts over the past few weeks.

Lord, I’m sorry, I’ll get back to the record.
Standard indie, except it works.  Definitely check it out, if you’re one of the few that has not.

Day 148: Nirvana – Nevermind

26 Jul

In Bloom

Blerrblah blaah blah…BLERBLAAHHHBLAHHBLAHHHHH.

If you guessed Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana, great job.

Yeah, grunge isn’t really my thing.  It’s Dad-Rock Tuesday, though, and what the padre says goes.

I’ll admit, they do have the nostalgia factor going for them.  Weird Al’s Smells Like Nirvana as well as In Bloom on Rock Band were pretty big parts of my youth.  It’s hard for me to relentlessly trash this record.

I’m going to anyway, though.

Actually, I’ll let the aforementioned Weird Al track do the talking for me—I’m just that lazy.  “Well, I’m yellin’ and we’re playin’ / But I don’t know what I’m sayin’ / What’s the message I’m conveyin’? / Can you tell me what I’m sayin’?”  Pure comedy gold right there.

As a matter of fact, no, I cannot tell what Kurt Cobain is saying.   That’s a problem with a lot of stuff on Nevermind.  I’m all for strange voices and emotional lyrics, but I best be able to understand that ish.

I guess this all loops back to my dislike of grunge music.  I can’t possibly be expected to enjoy what is considered the epitome of that subgenre.  It’s not that it’s too angry as music; anger can be good.  I just feel that this anger is all misguided, mainly because I have no idea what it’s guided at.  Because I can’t understand the lyrics.  Because it’s grunge.  Circular effing reasoning.

Also, while I’m on the topic of things discussed at writing camp, why is this record called Nevermind?  It’s not a compound word, bros.

Day 147: The B-52’s – The B-52’s

25 Jul

Rock Lobster

I love it when people suggest weird music for me.  Honestly, that’s what keeps me going.  So if you know of any off-kilter artists or bands, then by all means, hit me up.

The B-52’s make some weird music.  You know that song called Rock Lobster? The one about a lobster that rocks? Of course you do.  Well that’s on this record.

The strange lyrics and twee-esque instrumentation isn’t unique to that track, though.  The band’s eponymous self-titled debut has a lot to like for fans of that songNo, not every tune is a clone of that infamous one, but they all have a similar kitsch-ness to them.

The B-52’s is definitely more lyric-based than anything.  Of what their lyrics are about, I remain uncertain.  The point is that it’s the words that take center stage on this record.  It’s the fact that I’m not entirely sure what the lyrics are about that makes them so good.  If I understood what was going on between the lines of Rock Lobster, I’m not sure it’d be as awesome.  Or maybe I’m reading too far into this, and it really is just about a musical crustacean…

Anyway, weird lyrics are what give this band its strange, unconventional, but charming sound.  It’s almost as if they’re a predecessor for all the weird indie bands that were to follow in The B-52’s footsteps.  Strange has become the standard in today’s indie scene, so it’s interesting to hear strange from when it was actually strange.

Day 146: Outkast – Stankonia

24 Jul

B.O.B.

I’ma be straight with y’all.  This is not an optimal time for record listening.  It’s 12:45 in the morning, and the stresses of writing camp have taken their toll on me.  I’ve just scraped through half of Aristotle’s The Aim of Man, of which I’m sure 90% went straight over my head.  We’ll get through this together.

All of that is unfortunate, too.  I’ve been looking forward to this record for a while now.  I’ve heard the pretty standard Outkast singles before (Ms. Jackson, Roses, Hey Yeah), and they all kick ass.  Everyone talks about Stankonia and how amazing it is, so I figured it was time to give it a listen.

Yeah, it’s awesome.  Calling Outkast’s music “hip-hop” does not do it justice.  Freak-hop, maybe?  Still, that doesn’t quite capture its off beat insanity.

Yeah, Andre 3000 and Big Boi rap, so I guess technically, this is hip-hop.  It’s just that there’s so much going on in Stankonia compared to the other rap records that I’ve been exposed to.  I’m in awe.

Calling Stankonia “hip-hop” just feels restricting. These guys sample everything under the sun, in a way that makes me think of Girl Talk—it just sounds that good.  It’s also mostly catchy as hell, which is always a good thing.

It also helped that I knew a bunch of songs going in—songs that I didn’t even know I knew.  Sure, everyone’s heard the standard Ms. Jackson, but I recognized a few more.  That’s always cool.

I’m going to sleep.  Night.

Day 145: tUnE-yArDs – BiRd-BrAiNs

23 Jul

For You

Man-lady has returned!  Well, not really “returned,” I guess.  From my perspective, she has, but that’s only because I’m listening to her releases out of order.  A few months back,  I noticed that w h o k i l l (tUnE-yArDs’ second record) was receiving a ton of hype.  I checked it out for the blog, and fell in love immediately.  Merrill Garbus is just so different from everyone else that’s out there right now, in the best way possible.  I honestly believe that this is what pop music will sound like in twenty years; we’ll see about that.

Anyway, the point is that BiRd-BrAiNs came first, but I’m checking it out second.  Deal with it.

Guess what, Merrill was kicking ass even before the hype set in.  This record sounds a little less produced and mastered than her sophomore effort, but other than that, it’s clear that this is the exact same talented, creative musician at work.

This music remains almost impossible to describe; it’s just something that you have to hear for yourself.  I have a word count to make, though, so I’ll give a description a shot.  It’s a woman with a really deep voice layering anything that comes to mind, from her tribal chants and lyrics, to what I’m pretty sure was a ping pong paddle hitting a ping pong table.  Yeah, it’s kinda like that.  My description doesn’t do the amazingness of these two records justice, though.

If you like weird music, this is right down your alley.   Of course, I think this should be down everybody’s alley, but one night, when I was in the car with the fam, NPR did a little feature on tUnE-yArDs.  Everyone else thought that it was the world music show.  Shows what I know.

Day 144: Joy Division – Unknown Pleasures

22 Jul

Insight

That’s right, I had never listened to Joy Division before this.  Don’t judge; that’s what this blog is for.  It seems that every hipster and their grandmother swears by Unknown Pleasures, so I figured I needed to check it out.

I’ll be honest, I don’t effing get it.  Guys, wake up.  This record is boring.  Yeah, it’s got some unconventional vocals that you know I’m a fan of by now, but those alone are not enough to get me to like Unknown Pleasures.  I know that the singer is supposed to sound all dramatic and full of emotion and what not, but his deep drawl is just really freaking dull.  Yes, he committed suicide, but we can’t like music just because of that.

These guys do remind me of The National (who I am aware did come much later, but I have to compare new stuff to stuff that I already know), but that is not a good thing in this case.  The National have some really boring tracks; like some of the most uninteresting music that one can listen to.  It’s as if Unknown Pleasures is comprised of that stuff, and only that stuff.

I will hand it to them; that album cover is pretty cool.  That’s about as much interest as I can muster for this record, though.

So guess what, we have here yet another occurrence of the masses worshipping the works of an old hyped band.  I’m going to have to go all Plato on your collective asses, and bring you out of the cave of crappy music.  Come see the light with me.