Archive | July, 2011

Day 143: Starfucker – Reptilian

21 Jul


Feel good music always has the potential to go horribly wrong.   That over-the-top cheesy happiness is really hard to pull off well, and can come off as insincere very easily.  Making an upbeat synth pop record is risky because of this.  Unless it’s great, it’s going to be pretty much universally hated.  I had all of this in mind before I started listening to Starfucker’s Reptilian.  I was a little nervous, for obvious reasons—I didn’t want to subject myself to 40 or so minutes of cheesy crap-pop.

Fortunately, that didn’t end up happening.  Starfucker knows what the hell it’s doing.

If you like catchy music, have I got the album for you.  There are more hooks in this record than a bait shop, and most of the time, they’re less cheesy than this very sentence.  So essentially, you have the awesome catchiness that comes out of pop music, without the guilt—you can still maintain your hipster cred.

Let’s talk about that band name, too.  Regardless of how it’s interpreted, it oozes pure badass.  Personally, I think it refers to intercourse with celestial bodies, which is about as hardcore as one can hope to get.

Anyway, I guess the important thing is the music.  Think MGMT with the production and bad turned down a bit.  At points, it almost becomes calm enough to enter the chillwave spectrum, but most of the time, it’s fairly fast and danceable.  This is feel-good indie pop at its finest, and sometimes, that’s exactly what you need.


Day 142: Frank Zappa – Apostrophe (‘)

20 Jul

Nanook Rubs It

Weird music will almost always work well for me.  I love offbeat stuff.  Recently, I’ve found that I’ve been embracing the strange stuff more than I used to.  When you listen to a new record every single day, you attach yourself to the stuff that breaks the monotony, I guess.

And Frank Zappa is weird, man.  I mean that in the best way possible, because I really do love Apostrophe (‘).  Zappa has some stories to tell, and they’re some of the goofiest things I’ve ever heard.  It’s hard to go wrong with songs about not eating the yellow snow and crazy Eskimos named Nanook.

I think the most appealing thing about Apostrophe may actually be Zappa’s delivery.  Kooky lyrics don’t work if they aren’t matched up with the perfect voice, but Zappa was meant to say things like “At St. Alphonzo’s Pancake Breakfast / Where I stole the margarine / And wheedled on the Bingo cards / And blew up the latrine.”  His deep, smooth jazz voice works amazingly well.

As you know, I’m always a fan of short records.  Some people feel cheated when they get an album, and it’s only around half an hour—not me.  I believe that if the artist can get everything they need to done, then length is irrelevant.  Yeah, there’s a point where an LP becomes an EP, but I don’t think that is the case here.  Zappa gets everything wrapped up in 32 minutes on Apostrophe, and that’s good enough for me.  Honestly, I’m not sure if I could handle any more goofiness.

Day 141: Guns N’ Roses – Appetite for Destruction

19 Jul

Welcome to the Jungle

It’s Dad-Rock Tuesday, and I’m thoroughly confused.  My inner hipster (which I try my best to suppress) is trying as hard as his jaded little heart will allow him to get me to hate this record.  Lyrically, it’s pretty dumb.  Musically, it’s cheesy and over the top.  It’s also from the 80s, not one of my favorite eras of rock music.  I can’t do it, though.  Believe it or not, I kind of love Guns N’ Roses’ Appetite for Destruction. 

Yeah, I guess it helped that I knew a bunch of tracks going into this listening.  Welcome to the Jungle, the iconic opener, has been played at just about every professional sporting event since the beginning of time.  Paradise City is a staple of bad radio (which implies that there is also good radio.  Heh heh.)  Back in the golden Guitar Hero days, I played Sweet Child o’ Mine on expert more than a hundred times, easily.  I was the king of that track and its awesome riff on the plastic guitar-shaped controller.  It’s clear that Guns N’ Roses have been in my subconscious music library for quite a while now; I might as well embrace them.

Yeah, they’re cheesy.  Sometimes, that’s just what you need, though.  No, I don’t think lines like “Take me down to the paradise city / where the grass is green and the girls are pretty” is in any way profound or deep.  It’s corny, perhaps even a little cringe inducing, but there is no denying that it’s catchy as all hell.  As for Sweet Child o’ Mine, I think that scene from Step Brothers speaks for itself.

Day 140: Talking Heads – Fear of Music

18 Jul


What exactly is going on here?  How exactly am I listening to an indie pop rock band with a modern sound, but also listening to a thirty-year-old record?  I am fairly confused.  Old music isn’t supposed to sound like this!

Maybe all of my cherished indie bands aren’t as creative and original as I’ve come to believe.  I mean, if Talking Heads was releasing records like Fear of Music more than three decades ago, we sure haven’t progressed all that much musically since.

Maybe it’s the fact that I’m writing this at one in the morning, but I just can’t get over how modern this sounds.  It’s amazing.

Oh, have I told you that it sounds like it was recorded recently?  Because it does.

But seriously, word count worries and sleep deprivation aside, Fear of Music is pretty solid.  For those modern-indie inclined readers, think of  Arcade Fire and Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds.  A combination like that has no other option than the following: be really good.

It’s late (or early, depending on your perspective), and I refuse to look up the name of the vocalist, but he gets all of the props that I can muster.  I was under the impression that every front man from the 70s had a pitch-perfect voice, but I guess I was wrong.  This dude doesn’t have a bad voice, but it’s definitely not immaculate.  He even does a bit of sing-talking throughout Fear of Music, something that I’m always a fan of.  The instruments sound like a modern indie rock band.  Good night.

Day 139: Das Racist – Sit Down Man

17 Jul

Rapping 2 U

Wait, what?  This is Das Racist?  Honestly, I was expecting an entire record full of Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell bangers, but what I got was some semi-serious stoner rap.   I won’t lie; I am a little disappointed.  That’s not to say that the trio’s second mixtape-album-thing isn’t kind of baller.

I’ll be honest, I’m not entirely sure why or what it is that I enjoy about Sit Down, Man.  I guess the same goes for all of their work, though.  Pizza Hut is perhaps the dumbest song that I’ve ever heard, but it’s undeniably catchy, and has an appeal that never wears off.

It helps that these guys can actually rap, too.  I had never been fully exposed to their non-fast food rhyming skills before, so it was a relief that they know what they’re doing with microphones.

At way over an hour, and with 20 different tracks, Sit Down, Man can be a slog to get through.  Nothing stands out as particularly bad, but it definitely goes on for a little too long.  I’m not entirely sure why Das Racist felt the need to put so much together for a single release—they could have split Sit Down in half and had two full albums.  I guess there’s no stopping the creative juices once they start flowing.

I wouldn’t suggest listening to Sit Down, Man in full.  I know that I won’t be doing it ever again.  Maybe put it on in the background or something when you need some hip-hop to zone out to.

Day 138: Bob Dylan – Bringing It All Back Home

16 Jul

Subterranean Homesick Blues

I didn’t want to do this, really. The Swole Ear gods convinced me of my foolishness, though.  One cannot have a Minnesota Week on a music blog without Bob Dylan coming up.  Regardless of how one feels about Bob Dylan, and his obnoxiously overrated music.

I don’t even dislike Dylan all that much.  It’s just that BD fans are some of the most annoying people on earth.  They’re right up there with your average thirteen year old Green Day fan, except they have a much higher, more pretentious opinion  of their self, and the music that they listen.

So, it turns out Bob Dylan isn’t all that bad.  There was actually a little bit of controversy surrounding this record, too, which always adds some intrigue.  The second half features electronic instrumentation, which was pretty much what Dylan was known for not using.  Honestly, I think that is the superior half, if anyone cares.

When I think of Bob Dylan, I’m thinking of the first half of this record—straight-up folk music.  It was interesting to hear some electric guitars backing Dylan up instead of the typical acoustic.  It’s also not made into too big of a deal—the record flows very naturally from acoustic to electric.  I guess times were different back then, because Bringing It would be viewed as fairly tame if released as a rock album today.

So, perhaps I was a little unfairly harsh on Dylan.  His music is solid.  It’s just always tough to ignore annoying fans.

Day 137: Atmosphere – When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint that Shit Gold

15 Jul


As far as white boy hip-hop goes, you can’t ask for much better than Minneapolis’ own Atmosphere.  Minnesota Week continues with the duo’s fantastic (as well as fantastically titled) When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold.

I tend to avoid hip-hop records on this blog.  I’m a big multitasker, meaning I listen to the record and write these posts simultaneously.  As a result, it can be difficult to focus on lyrics for most records.  With my little indie hipster garbage bands, that’s not a huge problem.  I can usually figure out what the lyrics are about (if you guess love, Brooklyn, or love in Brooklyn, there’s a 100% chance that you’re right).  Hip-hop records are usually lyric intensive, though, with the vocals mixed above anything else.

The bits and pieces of rhymes that I picked up on were amazing.  Typical hip-hop themes of strippers, death, money, and sex are all present, and maybe even overused a bit.  The way Atmosphere addresses these topics is what sets them apart from standard hip-hop in my mind, though.  They go beyond just telling a trite story, they get inside the demented heads of the characters created in their tracks.  I didn’t know that hip-hop could be this smart.  I listen to Das Racist and Lil B (ironically, of course), so I guess I’m never really exposed to intelligence in this genre.  Swag.

The beats, which my black friends have informed me are crucial in hip-hop, are actually pretty simple.   As someone fairly unfamiliar with this genre, this doesn’t bother me very much.  They get the job done, and showcase the record’s excellent lyrics.  Perhaps a bigger hip-hop fan may be left unsatisfied by the simplicity, but it’s good enough for me.

Hey, what can you expect?  They are white, after all.  And Minnesotans.

Day 136: The Jayhawks – Tomorrow The Green Grass

14 Jul



And the lackluster Minnesota Week continues.  Guess what.  I still don’t want to be doing this.  Oh well.  I promise, that’s the last complaint you’ll hear out of me for a while.

So.  Now I’m pretty much stuck with actually reviewing a record.  Let’s get to it, I suppose.

The Jayhawks are one of those bands that I can’t really describe.  Throughout Tomorrow The Green Grass, I heard all kinds of different genres coming together.  There’s some folk, some country, maybe even a little bluegrass mixed in.  But there’s also a definite indie-rockish sound to it.  Wait.  Alt-Country.  Duh.  Sorry, I just remembered that this type of music really can be described.  Think early Wilco.  Except this record came out before Wilco formed…still, it’s a valid comparison.

So, what do I think about this record?  I know that’s the question that you’re all dying for me to answer.

Believe it or not, I think it’s pretty good.  I’m not sure why you wouldn’t believe it, but something has to take up those 250 words.

Sure, Tomorrow The Green Grass does sound a little more polished than what I usually listen to—the band definitely had access to a real studio when recording this.  That’s how alt-country should sound, though.  The cleanliness is part of its appeal.

Minnesota Week has already proven to be a great idea.  I would have never checked out this band if it hadn’t been for MW.  This state has some good tunes.

Day 135: Hüsker Dü – Flip Your Wig

13 Jul

Flip Your Wig

Hüsker Dü was a punk band, from Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota, USA, active from 1979 to 1987.”  Well, that’s enough for me this Minnesota Week.

As you can imagine, additional writing is the last thing that I feel like doing at a writing camp.  I said every day for an entire year, though.  I’m sticking to that.  I mean, life could be a lot worse right now.  I’m currently sitting in a dorm room listening to classic, influential Minnesotan tunes.

Anyway, let’s get going on Hüsker Dü before this turns into too much of a…shudder…personal blog.

I think it must be the mindset that I’m in right now, but I just can’t get into Hüsker.  I mean, they have everything that I look for in a band—emotion, strange vocalist, and a bit of a “fuck it all” attitude about them.  It’s not that I’m looking for anything different in my music at this moment, it’s that I’m not looking for any particular music at all.  I’ve been absorbing myself into the works of Plato and Emerson, and I just don’t care too much about the blog at the moment.

Like that previous paragraph, lots of what goes on within Flip Your Wig is obnoxious filler.  I almost smashed my computer over the head with my keyboard when the 45-second Baby Song came on.  Three quarters of a minute of terrible slide whistle playing should not be pushed upon anybody.  (Is there such a thing as good slide whistle playing?  That’s for another day.)  (Spoiler alert: the answer is “no.”)

Well, that’s 250+ words.  I’m done for the day.  I don’t care that you know just as much about the Dü as you did coming into this; I have some Frost to read.   

Day 134: Prince – Dirty Mind

12 Jul

Dirty Mind

We’ve pulled off something special today at Swole Ear Incorporated.  Minnesota Week will keep on trucking, even through Dad-Rock Tuesday.  This week, my father decided to unleash The Twin Cities’ infamous Prince on me.

I was not adequately prepared for this record.   It took me a couple of songs to realize that, in fact, that was not a girl singing.  Prince has one of the highest voices that I have ever heard, regardless of sex.

Once I got over this initial gender-shock, I tried to see exactly what my father enjoys about Prince, and his 1980 release, Dirty Mind. 

I understand why my dad likes Prince.  Mi padre was in college in Minnesota at the peak of this guy’s career, and I’ve been told that the Twin Cities had a case of Prince Fever.  I believe it. Minnesota normally doesn’t have that much going on.

Usually, with Dad-Rock Tuesday records, I’m missing out on something crucial: context.   I can’t possibly listen to these twenty-plus-year- old albums in 2011, and come close to understanding what was going on when they were released; what made them so good at the time.  Once again, I’ve listened to an old record out of context, but this time with a different result.

I like Dirty Mind.  It’s goofy, catchy, soulful, and there’s really nothing not to like about it.  That really speaks to the quality of this record.  A seventeen-year-old was able to pick it up thirty-one years after it was first released, and thoroughly enjoy it.  Now, tell me why I couldn’t do that with The Velvet Underground.

As far as pop records go, you can’t get much better than this.  It’s not hollow and meaningless, like I’ve come to expect from pop music.  Prince puts all of his unnaturally high voice into every song, and I was frequently amused by his promiscuous, definitely not radio-friendly lyrics.  If stuff like this were still on the Top 40, I’d definitely give it more credit.  But, as a result, there might not be a Swole Ear today.  Whether that’s a bad thing or not, I’ll leave up to you.