Archive | August, 2011

Day 164: Thelonious Monk – Brilliant Corners

11 Aug

Brilliant Corners

Jazz?  On my Swole Ear?  What is this madness?

A certain, more abrasive commenter told me to check out some work by Thelonious Monk, a jazz pianist and composer.

Believe it or not, I’m kind of lost for words.

As someone who has never listened closely to a single song from the jazz genre, how exactly am I supposed to put together 250+ words about an entire jazz record?  This won’t be the first (or last) time I’ve winged a Swole Ear post, I guess.

I’ll be straight with y’all.  I found Brilliant Corners boring.  It’s different than the zone-out music that I often write so fondly about—I wouldn’t call this album relaxing by any means.  There’s pretty much always something jarring happening, whether it’s another seemingly misplaced drum fill, or that sax riff for what feels like the 100th time.

Maybe I just don’t get it.  If I recall, it took a bit of perseverance for me to get into the hipster garbage world that is indie music.  Perhaps I need to listen to more jazz in order to really appreciate what I just listened to.  There’s an important question that I have to ask myself, though: is that what I really want to do at the moment?  I think the answer is no.  As far as this blog goes, I’m pretty content with being stuck in the world of modern, “obscure” music.  Yeah, that’s ignorant of me, but is a little instant gratification too much to ask for from a project like this?

So no, I’m not into jazz at the moment.  I prefer checking out buzz bands, and even ripping them new ones can be fun for me.  I’m conflicted, though, because having a broad musical horizon is important to me.  This probably won’t be the last jazz post of this blog.  Who knows, maybe next time around, I’ll get it.

Day 163: Massive Attack – Mezzanine

10 Aug

Black Milk

Trip-hop?  What the hell is that?


And that, ladies and gentleman, was about all I could muster while listening to Massive Attack’s Mezzanine.

At the conclusion of this record, I came to a conclusion of my own:  while I still have no idea of exactly what “trip-hop” means, it is a perfect and accurate descriptor of Massive Attack’s work.

Is this hip-hop? Not quite.  There are plenty of bass-heavy beats, but there’s never any real “rapping,” per se.  Instead, there are (you guessed it) trippy lyrics sung every now and then.  Overall, this record relies relatively little on vocals, though, opting to let the awesome beats and layers upon layers of sound speak for themselves.

Mezzanine has a very atmospheric sound.  This record should be listened to in a dimly lit room in solitude, on something very comfortable—that is to say, it works beautifully as space-out music.  Sure, that doesn’t make it the best album to write about for this blog, but I can still see the record’s potential usefulness, and will definitely add it to my zone-out repertoire.

For some reason, I got the feeling that everything was moving in slow motion while listening to Mezzanine. That may have something to do with its hour-plus length.  While it is acceptable for a record of this nature to go for that long, I always find it annoying when Swole Ear takes up more than 1/24th of my day.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad that I listened to Mezzanine; I just wish there were a non-zone-out version, light on the trip, heavy on the hop.

Day 162: Van Morrison – Moondance

9 Aug

Glad Tidings

Why?  Why???  Whyyyy??

Yeah, this is going to be one of those posts.  I am going to be fighting through every single word of this one.  Expect no contractions, a high amount of repetition, plenty of unnecessary conventions, and a fair number of unneeded paragraphs just like this one.

Oh lord, 200 words to go.

So for some reason, my father believed that it would be a great idea for me to listen to some Van Morrision this Dad-Rock Tuesday.  I do not understand…maybe he got his hands on a little hippy crack at Lollapalooza or something.  Whatever the case may be, I did it.  All 39 minutes of it.  I was miserable the entire time.

You know Brown Eyed Girl, that overrated, overplayed, over-obnoxious song about, guess what, a brown eyed girl?  Yeah, that is not even on this record.  It is by Van Morrison, though.  So if you expect anything different going into Mooncrap, you are both optimistic and moronic, like me.

I picked Glad Tidings as the sample track for this post for one reason—it sounds exactly like Brown Eyed Girl.  Most other songs are pretty close as well, though.  Pick your poison.

It is hard for me to identify exactly what it is that I cannot stand about Van Morrison and his music.  It has got to be more than the awful lyrics and identical guitars and horns used in every song…there is something more extreme going on in my subconscious.

But, at this point, I am at 250 words.  We’ll leave the subconscious probing for another day.

Day 161: Young The Giant – Young The Giant

8 Aug

My Body

I’ve got a severe case of post-Lolla depression, so I’m trying to keep the fest alive for as long as possible.  For that reason, we have yet another post about a band that played Lollapalooza 2011.

The different thing about this entry, though, is that I neither planned on seeing this band, nor actually saw this band perform at the fest.

Let’s flash back to Day 1 of Lollapalooza, which feels like it was both a million years ago, as well as a couple of hours ago.  My sister and I were walking away from the Google+ stage after Tennis’ set (which was pretty good), towards the BMI stage for some Electric Touch beauty.  On that fateful walk, I heard something beautiful—it was just some standard indie rock, but I was really digging it for some reason.  I pulled out my schedule, and discovered that the glorious sound I was hearing was coming from a band named Young The Giant.  I had to give them a listen.

After listening to this record, my initial love for the band (or the 30 seconds of their performance that I heard) has faded a bit.  Young The Giant has its moments, there’s no denying that, but as a whole, the record comes off as a long, poor Grizzly Bear imitation.  The band’s cause is not helped by the fact that I cannot stand Grizzly Bear.

At 50 minutes long, I started asking myself “why is this still going?”  Standard indie rock can only keep me interested for so long, and tons of repetition is never a good thing.

Maybe I need to see this band live to really appreciate their music; live shows can really turn my opinion of a group around.  Let’s just say, I now consider myself a fan of Best Coast.

Day 160: Best Coast – Crazy For You

7 Aug


Yeah, I’ll probably end up seeing Best Coast at Lollapalooza too.  Haters, continue your hating.

So somehow, I missed this record last year.  I know, that’s pretty hard to believe—someone who read Hipster Runoff as much as I did never got around to listening to Best Coast.  Carles was bashing Bethany Cosetino (the band’s lead singer) pretty much every day back then (and he probably continues to do so today; he doesn’t have all that much to blog about).  I don’t know why I didn’t check out the record.

Ah well, it doesn’t even matter.  The record isn’t that good.  It’s catchy at points, but ultimately, Bethany is just too annoying to justify giving it another listen.  She spends pretty much its entire 32 minutes whining about boys—that’s the last thing that I want out of my surf pop.

Seriously, when she’s not complaining about her relationships, she’s complaining about the fact that she’s not in a relationship.  I mean, three or four tracks like this, I can handle—but an entire record? That’s a little much, Beth.  Seriously, you’re a grown ass woman!  You don’t need to spend so much time worrying about dudes! You do you, don’t worry about anyone else.  At the very least, don’t bore me with every single detail about your love life.

I mean, with some decent lyrics, this record could be decent.  It’s following the new surf pop revival craze, something that I can definitely get behind.  It’s just that the lyrics have nothing to do with surfing.

Day 159: Friendly Fires – Friendly Fires

6 Aug

Jump In The Pool

Brit-pop. Lollapalooza’s biggest standby.  Seriously, every year, it feels like England’s new big things take up half of the lineup.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not necessarily complaining—Kaiser Chiefs in 2009 may perhaps be the most fun that I’ve ever had at a concert.  Do we need so much of it, though?

Honestly, I don’t know how I feel about this takeover. It’s late, I’m a little cranky, and it’s very possible that I’m just looking for something to complain about.  So I’m going to stop right here, and switch it over to a discussion of Friendly Fires’ self-titled debut record.

What is it? Standard brit-pop.  Is that a bad thing? Well, that’s up to you.  Personally, I’m always up for a little low-substance music.  Sure, I prefer stuff with a little more meaning than you’ll get out of this record, but hey, I’ll admit that it’s pretty fun to listen to.

Thing is, these guys put on a pretty good show too.  They played before Kaiser Chiefs in ’09, and I’ll be seeing them under similar circumstances this year.  For some reason, they’ve been placed right before Death From Above 1979…Kaiser Chiefs, I understand.  Angry, screamy, hate-rock, on the other hand…ehh.

No, Friendly Fires doesn’t really bring anything new to the table.  No, this record isn’t all that creative or meaningful.  It’s catchy as hell, though, and perfectly suited for a mid-afternoon slot on a main stage at a massive festival.  I’m looking to have fun at Lollapalooza, after all, and I think seeing a Friendly Fires show will definitely help me accomplish that goal.  I also can’t wait to see the reaction from the people waiting for Death From Above…

Day 158: The Naked and Famous – Passive Me, Agressive You

5 Aug

Punching In A Dream

I’m seeing these guys open for Crystal Castles at a Lollapalooza “after-show” that is really a pre-show—this concert goes down on Thursday, and Lolla starts on Friday.  None of that really matters, though.  Lollapalooza will be in full force by the time you get around to reading this.  Yeah, I’m trying to get a little ahead for the fest, don’t hate.

Anyway, here’s another band that I cannot escape seeing.  This time, though, I think it’s all going to work out for the best.  Or, I guess, will have worked out for the best by the time you read this.

This band has received a lot of praise for having their own sound…I wouldn’t call The Naked and Famous’ sound “unique,” not by any means.  This band sounds like a pure hybrid of The Pains of Being Pure at Heart and The xx.  I’m not saying that’s a bad thing—both of those bands are great—but I don’t think merging two buzz bands counts as originality.

I’m being too negative, though—this really is an interesting combination.  The low-key, bass heavy beats of The xx, the powerful synth rips of Pains, as well as the gooey melodramatic lyrics of both bands come together into something that does sound pretty cool.

So, what it comes down to here: originality isn’t all that important.  Sometimes, a band can create something of their own by borrowing pretty liberally from other groups already out there. Sometimes, it can even sound pretty good.  Passive Me, Aggressive You won’t be my record of the year, but hey, I could be listening to worse stuff and seeing worse bands.

Day 157: Girl Talk – Feed The Animals

4 Aug

Play Your Part, Pt. 1

Of all of the pre-Lolla research records that I’m listening to, this is the least necessary.  I mean, it’s Girl Talk.  Do you really need to be all that familiar with Mr. Gillis’ work in order to enjoy one of his shows?  I think the answer to that has gotta be no.  From the concert footage that I’ve seen, Girl Talk shows are huge dance parties as opposed to sing-a-longs.

I’ll admit, I’ve been awestruck by Girl Talk’s All Day ever since I listened to it back in May.  I wanted some more, which is exactly what I got out of Feed The Animals.

It’s always annoying when I listen to an artist’s work in any order other than chronological.  I want to write things like “Girl Talk is still bringing it,” but that wouldn’t make any sense, considering that All Day came out after Feed the Animals.  I guess I’ll have to settle on something else.  Girl Talk was bringing it even way back in 2008.

Honestly, unless you don’t have a soul, there’s nothing not to enjoy about this record.  Greg Gillis has some magical ears, and an insane capability for matching up tracks that you or I would never think would work together.   With two of his records under my belt now, I’m beginning to notice a few of his recurring tricks—he opens a lot of his long, beat-heavy hip-hop sections with intense guitar blasts from various 70s cheese-rock groups.  He’ll also find a way to work in that opening beat from Rick Astley’s Never Gonna Give You Up—something that makes those who have spent too much of their lives on the internet cringe every single time.  There should also be a limit on Daft Punk samples, in my opinion—I think I counted four in this record.

I’m being nit-picky, though.  This is another amazing mashup record, and I’m definitely psyched about the Girl Talk set at Lolla.  Even if it means venturing over to the DJ stage.

Day 156: Fences – Fences

3 Aug

Girls With Accents

So yeah.  The great Lolla scramble is going to keep on rollin’.  Sorry about that.

This is a band that I should have checked out a long time ago.  Not because they’re good or anything, believe me.  I will be seeing them, though—they’re opening for Titus Andronicus at a Saturday night Lolla after-show.  Let’s just say, I no longer care all that much about getting to this show on time.

All we need to do here is look at both the band and record’s name.  Fences.  Yeah.  Real exciting.  It calls to mind the work of a developing photographer.  See, you go through this “artsy” stage when you first pick up a camera, and try and make pictures of boring things (fences) not so boring.  The operative word there is try.  Believe me, it can be done, but not with your autofocus Coolpix set on black and white.  I went through this stage, and I have way too many embarrassing fence shots.  It’s even worse, because they’re on film…not only was I terrible at photography; I was pretentious as shit.

Anyway, allegories aside, Fences is boring, generic, and boring.  Good thing it’s only half an hour, because I was getting close to falling asleep half way through.

It’s essentially acoustic guitar music, with a little bit of back-up instrumentation.  That type of music is only good if there are some kick ass lyrics being sung.  “I was born in the same town as you / Hell, I even think we have the same tattoos / My mother hates it when I smile / And she sees you coming through me / Like a sunshine through thin glass.”  I’m not even gonna touch that.

Day 155: Little Feat – Dixie Chicken

2 Aug

Fool Yourself

And it’s Dad-Rock Tuesday once again.  Oh joy.  This week, my father picked Little Feat’s 1973 release, Dixie Chicken.

Why did he do this, you may ask?  That’s a good question.  I was a little confused at first as well.  Another redneck band?  Seriously?  Do you want me to stomp on something that you hold close to your heart?  Again?  Apparently.

Ah, but my father is smarter than that.  He turned the tables on me, and picked a redneck record that is actually listenable, something that I had previously believed to be impossible.

Hold up, I just saw a picture of this band.  They have two black guys.  It’s comforting to know that I am enjoying music made by a band that probably doesn’t have any Confederate flag memorabilia floating around.

But, for serious, this band is much better than Lynyrd Skynyrd for a number of reasons.  I should probably stop with the Skynyrd comparisons, though…it only hurts a band’s name to be placed next to the epitome of awful like that.

So, starting over.  Believe it or not, Dixie Chicken was kind of refreshing to listen to!  I know, this is strange to hear about a record that came out more than 30 years ago, but hear me out.  This album bends genres, combining country, rock, and even R&B into a sound that I have never heard before.  I guess the country kind of stood out to me at first, which was the cause of that unspeakable comparison.  Looking deeper, though, this is a very interesting record, and about the last thing that I was expecting.