Archive | August, 2011

Day 174: Kanye West & Jay-Z – Watch The Throne

21 Aug

Niggas in Paris

My room is filled with posters that rep my love for things like Entourage or The Pains of Being Pure at Heart. After taking a glance at my limited edition White Stripes turntable, something hit me: I have no idea what I’m talking about when it comes to hip-hop.

I’ve dabbled in the genre with this blog before, but I admit, I’m fairly uncertain when it comes to what I’m supposed to look for in a hip-hop record.  I’m only writing about this now because I’ve stumbled upon the first hip-hop record that I don’t really like.  For those who are completely oblivious to the world around them, and are most likely living under a rock, Watch The Throne is a collaborative record made by Jay-Z and Kanye West, two of hip-hop’s—as well as music’s in general—biggest names.   That deadly combination might be part of the problem with this record, though.  I’ll be blunt; both of these guys are filthy rich.  If for some reason you didn’t know that, The Throne will burn that fact into your brain.

There’s a track called Niggas in Paris.  They rhyme about clubs, prenups and Maybachs.  Oh, but don’t worry, it’s all good, because they rap about the problems that come with being rich, too.  Sorry, this just doesn’t appeal to someone like me.  Maybe they should have just distributed this record to their secret billionaire rapper society, (you know, the one that runs the world.  Kind of like the Elders of Zion, except it actually exists).

Oh, and if we’re on the topic of Judaism, I’ve got to tell you something Kanye.  Whatever it is that you’re referring to in Who Gon Stop Me (awesome grammar in that title, by the way) isn’t “something like the Holocaust.”  I promise.

Anyway, maybe this is good hip-hop.  If you look past the obnoxious rhymes, the beats are pretty solid.  My point is, I really don’t know what I should be looking for here.  What it’s going to come down to, though, is that if there’s a problem as glaring as bad lyrics, I don’t think there’s any way that I can enjoy the record that they’re a part of.

Day 173: Dr. Dog – Fate

20 Aug

The Breeze

What the hell is “psychedelic rock?”  What does that even mean?  Images of tie-dye, mushrooms, and dirty hippies come to mind when I hear that descriptor—not the idea that I got at all from listening to Dr. Dog’s Fate.

 But for some reason, that term is often applied to this band’s music.  I’m not making this up, I’ll even back up my claim: “Dr. Dog is a psychedelic rock group from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania which formed in 1999.”   That’s the first sentence of the group’s bio.  I don’t get it.

Anyway, I’m glad that this group doesn’t make music like I thought they would.  This is indie rock, but it’s not indie rock like everybody else is indie rock.  The carefully chosen and good lyrics call a little folk to mind. My favorite outside influence, though, might be the big band sound that I hear every now and then.  On Army of Ancients, for instance, I’m pretty sure that there’s a brass section, and the overall feel of the song just screams 20’s.  It’s a nice break from all of the standard indie that I listen to.

My favorite part about this record, though, I’m having a little trouble putting into words.   Fate really put me at ease, almost.  It just feels like all the people in this band are nice and easy to get along with—no, that’s not completely it…I think it’s that this record has a very homemade feel to it.   It’s not that Fate is amateurish, but welcoming.

Day 172: Cut Copy – In Ghost Colours

19 Aug

Out There on the Ice

Hahaha I love it when Australians use unnecessary u’s.  This band should have been named Cuuuuuut Coupy.

 Yes, I’m writing at one in the morning again, how’d you guess?  You ready for a flashback to mid July?  Because I’m sure that the quality of this post will be at that leveul.

Catchy.  As.  Hell.  In Ghost Colouuuuurs kicks a lot of ass, in my humble opinion.  As good as it’s been so far, though, it’s got a length of 50+ minutes.  Staying up through this one may prove to be a challenge.

 Anyway, I picked this record because people cannot shut up about how awesome Cut Copy is.  They’re playing a show in September, so I figured I’d give a record of their’s a listen before I decide if I will be attending or not.  That has proven to be unneeded.

This Cut Copy show will be a dance party of awesomness, and I think a familiarity with the material will prove to be unnecessary.  While this is definitely indie-approved and hipster-friendly, it is without a doubt dance music.  Echoy vocals, sick beats, and reverby synths bounce all over the place, coming together to make a fun, easy-to-listen-to sound.

I’m really glad that Amurricans dropped that whole extra “u” thing.  It just looks silly.  C’mon, rest of the English-speaking world, there are some things that we got right. Screw the metric system.

 I’m about to die of exhaustion.  It has been nice writing to y’all. Real nice.  For serious.  250.

Day 171: Sigur Rós – Agætis byrjun

18 Aug


Please, don’t ask me how to pronounce either of those.

As a matter of fact, I’d have trouble pronouncing almost every song that I’ve just listened to.  I guess there’s a vowel shortage in Iceland, the country that Sigur Rós calls home.  Flugufrelsarinn?  Anyone want to give that a shot?  What about Svefn-g-englar?  Yeah, that’s what I thought.

Song titles aren’t the only things that I don’t understand on Agætis byrjun, though.  All tracks with lyrics are—guess what—sung in Icelandic!  That means that the quality of the lyrics has absolutely nothing to do with my perception of this record—I’m judging it on the music, and music alone, which definitely works in Agætis byrjun’s favor.  This music is beautiful.  Describing it as dreamy-post-rock-shoegaze just doesn’t do it justice, this really is a record that should be listened to by everybody.  I feel that even haters would have difficulty hating on Agætis byrjun; a bold statement, I’m sure.

I guess if haters had to find something wrong with this record, they could attack its length, and even call it a little repetitive every now and then.  I think Agætis byrjun’s length works in its favor, though.  Yeah, it’s over an hour.  That means you get over an hour of awesome, pure zone-out glory.  And repetition can be a wonderful thing when attacked correctly.  Here, these dreamy soundscapes build and build until they break down into something awesome. As your Swole God, I command you to check this record out.

Day 170: Atom and His Package – Redefining Music

17 Aug

Anarchy Means I Litter

Well that’s an obnoxious title for a record.  It’s pretty pretentious, too.   Atom, you’re already off to a bad start.

Let’s rewind a bit, though.  Last summer, I was playing around on Ishkur’s Guide to Electronic Music—an amazing website that explains the numerous different subgenres of, guess what, electronic music—when I stumbled upon something called “Casiocore.”  The third sample provided by Ishkur of this low-fi, high-ridiculous genre is 15 seconds or so of Where Eagles Dare, a Misfits cover by Atom and His Package.  I was hooked, and quickly went to the YouTubes to satisfy my hunger for more.

I was impressed with the two or three other songs that I heard.  For some reason, these songs popped into my head the other day, and I figured that it was time to check out a full album by Atom.

Fast forward to now.  Redefining Music doesn’t really redefine music (in a positive sense, at least).  It kind of characterizes music as a shouty, over-the-top, painful, amateurish thing.  The problem with this record is that it lacks all of the charm that I heard in tracks Eagles or Hammer.  Instead of wide-eyed and intrigued by everything around him, Atom comes off as another jaded punk—the only difference is that he uses a synth and sequencer.

I think I must have picked the wrong record here.  Actually, I really hope that I picked the wrong record.  I still love those few songs that I listened to a year ago, and if there’s an Atom & His Package record that sounds anything like that, I’d love to give it a shot.

Day 169: John Hiatt – Riding with the King

16 Aug

She Loves The Jerk

If you asked me, “Hey, Swole Ear,”  (because that’s my actual name) “who do you care the least about in the world?”  I would answer you with “John Hiatt.”  Really, I would.  If you followed that strange question up with “I’m sure there are plenty of other candidates worthy of that title, why John Hiatt?”  My response would be “Because of Riding with the King.”

I was going to keep that question/answer thing confined to the introduction.  I’m bored, though (because of John Hiatt), so I’ve decided to keep this train wreck rolling.  Lucky you.

Assuming you know that Riding with the King is a record of Mr. Hiatt’s, a question along the lines of “How can a single LP cause that much disdain towards its creator?” would probably follow.  To that, I’d respond with a question of my own: “Have you ever listened to this man’s work?”

Your answer must be a “No.”  Otherwise, this explanation would be completely unnecessary.

“But Swole, what is it exactly that bores you about this record?”

“Every. Freaking. Thing.”

Followed by a dramatic pause.

“I’m confined to around 250 words, though, so I’ll hit on the big issues.”  I’d let you know,  “Well, my biggest issue with Riding, and just John Hiatt in general, is that he has no idea what he wants to be.”

Your dumb ass may point out that you are kind of dumb, and that I’ll have to be more specific.

“Yeah, I figured.  Well, in this record alone, Hiatt takes stabs at every genre under the white guy sun.  Country, rock, country-rock, white man soul, and white boy blues.” I’ll say very slowly in an easy to understand, sarcasm-free tone.

But you’re still stupid.  So you’d ask “But what’s wrong with that?”

“Well, he fails at every single genre that he attempts.  He manages to turn all of them into boring, unenthusiastic, plus-or-minus three-minute romps of bleh.”  Would be my response.  “You get one more question.”

“Why on earth did your father pick this for Dad-Rock Tuesday?”

“And that, my low-IQ friend, I cannot answer.”

Day 168: Archers of Loaf – Icky Mettle

15 Aug

Web in Front

“Jacob, why are you listening to more 90s indie rock?”  I asked myself in the third person.

“Well, because all of these Chicago street fests that I frequent insist on booking 90s indie rock bands that everyone has already forgotten about.  Dumbass.”  I replied.

AV Club, a Chicago-based indie music blog (no, not Pitchfork) is throwing a little get together.  Over two days, I’ll get to see a bunch of modern bands that I really like—The Thermals, Tokyo Police Club, Cloud Nothings and Telekinesis will all be making appearances.  I recognized neither of the two-day fest’s headliners, though, and for good reason.

One night, Hum will be taking the stage last.  They haven’t done anything for ten years.  The next night, Archers of Loaf will be playing to the largest crowd.  They’ve been broken up for around twelve years now, I believe.

I’m always up for live music, though, so I figure that it’s my responsibility to give both of these bands a shot at winning me over.  I’ll probably end up seeing their sets regardless of how I feel about them; leaving a show before the headliner always feels weird.

Let’s just say, I see why people loved Icky Mettle when it was originally released in November of 1993 (just a few weeks before I was born.)  It’s standard 90s indie rock, with a little grunge influence evident.  It doesn’t wow me, but that’s because it’s undeniably dated.  I’ll see this band’s show, and who knows, maybe they’ll kill it and gain a faux-nostalgia fan.

I’m just not so sure how I feel about all of these indie bands reuniting and going on cash-grab tours.  Cap’n Jazz did it (yeah, I saw them twice [and yes, one of those times was at a Chicago street fest]), and they ended up playing venues larger than any of the other Kinsella bands could ever dream of.  Superchunk released an album after almost a decade of dormancy, and made all kinds of bank.  Good for these bands for finding a way to capitalize on their posthumous popularity, but it’s kind of annoying to the kids who have never heard of them, and have to see all of these old groups’  names on  higher slots than some up-and-coming bands with all kinds of potential.

Day 167: Telekinesis – 12 Desperate Straight Lines

14 Aug

You Turn Clear in the Sun

Long time readers of Swole Ear may remember my post about the other Telekinesis record.  I’m too lazy to go back and check exactly what I said about that album, but I think it was something along the lines of “this is a good, albeit derivative, indie rock record.”

Honestly, I could just reuse that post, and it would fit perfectly with 12 Desperate Straight Lines.  Telekinesis has done it again; the band has made yet another solid album, one that sounds like a million others already out there.  That’s not to say that I love the band or its music any less.

“We fell in love in the Summer / by the Spring time we were done/ is it any wonder that I didn’t run?” sings Michael Benjamin in the first few seconds of You Turn Clear in the Sun, Straight Lines’ opening track.  It’s a soft, fuzzy, warm little number that starts off the record in a manner very similar to the band’s other LP.  No, these aren’t genius lyrics, and yeah, I’m probably doing my Swole Ear double-standard thing again, but I really like this band for whatever reason.  It’s my attraction to melodrama shining through, I guess.

So is it a bad thing that a band made the exact same record twice?  Is it a bad thing that I don’t care, and I like both of these records all the same?  I think it’s a no to both of those questions.  I know, I’ve written about how it’s cool to see a band’s sound evolve over the years, but I also love me some comfort music.  That’s what we’ve got here.  If you’re a hater, you’re bound to hate.

Day 166: Gogol Bordello – Gypsy Punks: Underdog World Strike

13 Aug

Start Wearing Purple

Sometimes, you listen to some music that just makes you go “what the hell?”  That’s what we’ve got here.  Seriously, I’m not exaggerating.  Give anything by Gogol Bordello a listen, and you’ll see exactly what I mean.  Now, whether you like it or not is going to be completely up to your musical taste.  If you lean towards faster, harsher music, this strange take on punk rock could be right down your alley.

Personally, I kind of love this record. It’s loud, angry, and undeniably Eastern European.  Eugene Hütz, umlaut and all, has a crazy-awesome Ukrainian accent that makes 90% of his broken English lyrics incomprehensible.  Honestly, that doesn’t matter all that much.  His loose shout of “punk” or “party” every now and then keeps you well informed regarding the content of his lyrics.

I finally got around to checking this band out for one reason: their live shows.  Personally, I’ve never seen them live.  Everyone tells me that they’re crazy, though. Well, everyone except for my father, who remembers their 2008 set at Lollapalooza to this day—he’s not a fan.  I understand that, though.  Unless you’re in the thick of it at punk shows, you’re likely to have a pretty bad time.  Watching YouTube footage from Titus Andronicus’ recent set at Lolla—one of my favorites this year—the band sounds pretty bad.  I was in the pit with the American flag-toting hipsters, though, and I had a blast.  Often, these types of shows are more about the crowd than the actual music, and that’s fine by me.  Nothing beats an awesome crowd at an awesome concert.

Day 165: Maps & Atlases – Perch Patchwork

12 Aug


I’ll be the first to admit that Swole Ear is not perfect.  It has its share of flaws, of which a fair number have revealed themselves over the past 165 days.  The biggest problem with this blog is that it’s a huge pain in the ass (for me) to listen to a new record every day.   On a more relevant note, however, sometimes it’s hard to judge an album after a single listen.

I have no idea whether I like Maps & Atlases or not, and here’s why: they sound a bit like Grizzly Bear.  Regular readers of this blog know that I loathe Grizzly Bear and all of their imitators with a burning passion.  Let’s just say, if you’re pretentious enough to refer to your music as “art rock,” it probably won’t sit too well with me.

Maps & Atlases isn’t straight-up obnoxious art rock, though.  Sure, it has its share of annoying, drawn out intros, lame little guitar riffs disguised as intricate and important behind their never ending repetition, even an ill-advised attempt at vocal harmonization every now and then.  There’s more going on here, though.   I hear plenty of bands other than Grizzly Bear in Perch Patchwork.  The lyrics (or at least their delivery) often resemble that of Okkervil River, and the treble guitar is reminiscent of Vampire Weekend at points, and those are two bands that I like and respect.

I guess I’ll have to give this record a few more spins before I can make the call.  For now, I’ll have to give it the benefit of the doubt and move on, as there’ll be another post tomorrow.  And the next day.  And the next day…