Archive | November, 2011

Day 265: Belle and Sebastian – If You’re Feeling Sinister

20 Nov

Get Me Away From Here, I’m Dying

So I was flipping through the Chicago Tribune today…

Hahaha, just kidding.  So my dad was flipping through the Chicago Tribune today, when he stumbled upon a poorly written and nonsensical article deep within the Arts+Entertainment section.  While pieces of this nature have become commonplace in this dying newspaper, my father believed that the subject matter of this particular article would give me something to get angry about.

Can we stop the sweet? by one Christopher Borrelli, is supposed to be an exposé of “twee culture,” which has apparently seen a burst in popularity in recent months. First off, I’d like to point out that “twee” as a description has become almost meaningless. You can call anything sickly sweet and over-the-top if you try hard enough.  But that’s not the only problem. The article’s info-graph, which takes up two-thirds of the piece’s full-page spread, lists The Decemberists as “Insufferably Twee.”  Last time I checked, those guys have released songs about the following: a father killing his children, a young mariner seeking revenge on the ship captain who destroyed his life, male bus stop prostitution, and a double cliff-jumping suicide.

What’s clear to me is that Borrelli is incapable of distinguishing between what is “twee,” and what is “hipster,” another term that has made its way into the widespread vernacular, and lost most of its meaning by being applied to almost anything.

Anyway.  I noticed that Belle and Sebastian is on Borrelli’s moronic list.  As a band that I’ve been intending to listen to, I figured that this was a sign from the Swole Gods.  Now, I have to figure out how to turn this rant into an album response.

If we’re going by Borrellli’s definition, then yeah, Belle and Sebastian is twee.  Who cares if it is, though?  Something that I’ve learned is that you’ve just got to listen to what sounds good.  Forget the trivial labels that may be associated with it, and when all of your peers start calling you a hipster for it, years after the word has ceased to mean anything, you can just laugh at them.

Belle and Sebastian’s low key, mellow, sometimes jazz-influenced indie rock sounds good.  For that reason, and for that reason alone, I suggest that you give If You’re Feeling Sinister a listen.

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Day 264: The Wooden Sky – If I Don’t Come Home You’ll Know I’m Gone

19 Nov

Oh My God

On an evening filled with less-than-stellar college admission results (i.e. deferred (i.e. college purgatory)), I’ve found a mood-fitting album.  But midnight is fast approaching, and I’ve got very little motivation to write tonight, so please forgive me if this post is a little below the level of excellence that you’ve come to expect out of me.

What we have here is some pretty sweet folk rock—what else would a band called “The Wooden Sky” make?  They’re Canadian, too. Once again, my claim that Canada has nothing to offer the rest of the world other than maple syrup and Terrance and Phillip has been refuted.

In a way, these guys remind me of The National.  This is kind of an abstract connection if you’re basing it only on the sounds of the two bands, but hear me out.  Both groups feature frontmen with very prominent voices, and very personal lyrics.  Their voices aren’t even all that similar—Matt Berninger of the National is known for his really low voice, while The Wooden Sky’s Gavin Gardiner just kind of has a drawl—but the fact that both are featured prominently in their respective band’s mixes makes me associate them with each other.

How was that for a run-on sentence?

Also, like the music of The National, If I Don’t Come Home… is a very atmospheric record.  There’s no way that I could listen to this at the beach during the middle of August.  Although it probably would be good for the beach during the middle of November.

Dayayayayay 263: Dananananaykroyd – There Is A Way

18 Nov

Muscle Memory

Let’s get you all caught up.  I listened to Dananananaykroyd’s first record when The Swole was in its infancy, loved it (the album), and proceeded to forget about it. That’s been the story with quite a few records over the past 263 days, unfortunately, but I guess that’s bound to happen with a project like this.  I cared enough to give the band a “like” on Facebook, though, which meant that I heard all about the release of this particular record through numerous status updates.  That was way back in June.  Then the band announced that they would be breaking up after a final European tour.  I think that was back in September.  Now, it’s November, and I need a record to listen to.

I’m actually a bit saddened by the fact that I’ll never be able to see these guys live.  A quick YouTube search of their shows leads me to believe that they were extremely fun (i.e. plenty of moshing, but not with people that look like they want to end a few lives).  That’s what this type of music is going to lead to—it’s indie pop/rock with some hardcore elements—and I really wish that there were more of it in existence. There are a few breakdowns and a bit of screaming, which blends surprisingly well with the often-joyous vibe given off by the band’s lyrics.

Believe me, had these guys ever embarked on a U.S. tour, I most definitely would have attended a show.  Maybe they’ll reform one day.  Or maybe they’ve decided that they have had enough of that ridiculous name, and will be reforming under a better one next week.

Day 262: Kid Cudi – Man On the Moon: The End of Day

17 Nov

Day ‘n’ Nite

As one of the stars of what is quickly becoming one of my favorite tv shows, it’s about time I checked out some of Kid Cudi’s music.  Reaction: meh.  How to Make It in America is a fantastic show, and Domingo, the classy weed dealer played by Cudi, is a fantastic character.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t get into this record.

First off, this thing is an hour and eight minutes long.  You should know where I stand on really long records by now.  They take up more time of my life than I want to give, so they better have a good reason for breaking the one-hour mark.

It’s clear that Cudi thought he had a good reason.  End of Day is split into five “acts,” some of which are separated by little dramatic plotline updates spoken by an anonymous narrator.  Aside from providing me with a new potential last.fm username (I heard “This is the rise of the Night Jews” in place of “…night terrors” in one of them), these breaks in the action tend to ruin any flow or coherency that this record may have had.

But that’s not even my biggest problem with this album.  If you’re going to present a record as a deep, personal, introspective masterpiece, than you had better have some interesting things to say, along with some good stories to back them up.  14-year-olds have already made an infinite number of Facebook statuses about most of the tales on this record.  This is the first line of the first song: “I’ve got 99 problems / and they’re all bitches.”  That’s what we’re dealing with here.

Not gonna lie, though—“Day ‘n’ Nite” remains catchy as hell.

Day 261: Joan of Arc – A Portable Model of…

16 Nov

The Hands

All Chicagoans who consider themselves fans of local music are familiar with The Kinsella brothers. Gods of the Chi-Town music scene, these guys have played in more bands than I can bother keeping track of. Their only product that I’ve listened to for The Swole so far has been American Football’s self-titled LP, which I found a little disappointing. It doesn’t live up to the amateurish insanity that I love in the music of Cap’n Jazz, the brothers’ first band. I’ve left their music alone since.

When the first track of Tim Kinsella’s post-Cap’n-project started up, I immediately began to worry. With a soft and laid-back sound much closer to American Football than I was comfortable with, “I Love a Woman (Who Loves Me)” made me think that this was going to be my sixth post all over again.

Then “The Hands” came on, and I can’t begin to describe the grin that spread across my face. With a rough and obnoxious sound, this really could be Cap’n Jazz with some synths in place of guitars. That may sound like musical hell to fans of structure and order within their music, but it made me feel right at home.

While Portable still maintains that awesome thrown-together sound that I’ve grown to love, it’s clear that Tim Kinsella had matured a bit with his music by the time this record was released. It’s still angsty, but not too angsty. The lyrics are more abstract, if that’s even possible, than most of Analphabetapolothology. It’s good as hell, though, and makes me feel a little dumb for ignoring the Kinsellas for all this time.

CENSORED

15 Nov

Day 260: The J. Geils Band – Nightmares…and Other Tales from the Vinyl Jungle

15 Nov

Funky Judge

It’s Dad Rock Tuesday yet again, and I’m a little confused.  I was led to believe that there would be the harmonica this week.  Where is the harmonica?  Last Dad Rock Tuesday, I was all like “the harmonica on this record is pretty cool,” so my dad was all “I’ve got you on the harmonica next week bro” but now it’s next week and the harmonica is nowhere to be found.  I am fairly disappointed with this lack of the harmonica.

I mean, there are horns on this record, which are okay I guess. You do put your mouth to them and blow and then sound comes out, but they’re still not the harmonica that I really want.

There are a few tracks on this record that go crazy with the harmonica, and those are awesome, but those don’t make up nearly a big enough percentage of this record. Many other tracks use the harmonica, but they aren’t even in your face about it.  Those songs are all like “oh you want the harmonica? Okay, we’ll give you the harmonica,” but they were actually trolling me because they gave me the harmonica, but it was all soft and subtle and not in your face and all just blending in with the melody and I was all like “songs, why you messing with me?”

But I should have been all like “dad why you messing with me?”  It’s his fault.  This record didn’t come out with the goal of satisfying a dude’s craving for the harmonica more than 40 years after its release.

So J. Geils Band, we’re cool.  You’ve got a pretty cool sound, even though your incorporation of the harmonica is a little lackluster on most songs on this particular record.

Lord, how I wish I could write like that errday.

Day 259: Arctic Monkeys – Suck It and See

14 Nov


Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair

Okay, you got me—I’m a bad fan.  It’s flashback time.

Way back in late 2008, this guy had just started getting into music.  A hatred of the Chicago Top-40 stations that remained permanently tuned in during every early-morning commute to school propelled me to search for something better.  With an IQ just a tad too high for the “Alternative” station, I thought I was out of luck.  Fortunately, I stumbled upon the Pandora Internet Radio iPhone App, and my life was forever changed.  I set up a station using The White Stripes and Franz Ferdinand as my guidelines (a little strange in retrospect, but they were all I knew), and was able to spend car rides in beautiful, antisocial, indie bliss.  A band that kept coming up on my station was this weird little English group called Arctic Monkeys.  I loved the raw, angst-fueled energy that poured out of both of their full-lengths at the time, and was thrilled to hear that a new record was in the works.

Then, Humbug came out.  It was okay.  The band had lost a bunch of their energy, but I let the album grow on me.  Their shows were still tight, and frontman Alex Turner still looked like this.

Then, about a year ago, the cycle for this newest record began.  Right from the start, its title annoyed the hell out of me—it’s like they’re trying to show that they haven’t lost that teenage attitude, when every fan had already accepted that it was long gone.  I figured that I’d give the album a listen when it came out anyway, until I saw a picture of the new Alex Turner.  Arctic Monkeys were as good as dead to me at that point.

But, when you maintain a blog that requires a new record every day, sometimes you’ve got to throw your principles out the window in order to get things done.

Don’t let its childish name fool you—Suck It and See is clearly a record devoid of any teenage influence whatsoever.  Is it good?  I don’t really know.  It’s by no means bad, but it is very low on energy.  There’s absolutely no reason to ever listen to this album over Whatever People Say I Am or even Favorite Worst NightmareSuck It may be a little more polished and pretty than previous Arctic Monkey releases, but is that really what anyone wants out of these guys?

Day 258: Childish Gambino – Camp

13 Nov

Fire Fly

If there are any fans of the formerly-hilarious-but-now-just-kind-of-bad-but-with-a-good-episode-every-now-and-then-so-I-feel-obligated-to-continue-watching Community on NBC, you know that Donald Glover is one funny dude.  A former writer for The Daily Show and 30 Rock, I was expecting a whole lot of funny on Camp, his first studio hip-hop record.  Instead, while there are funny rhymes worked in every now and then, I got something better.

Camp is a surprisingly insightful work about a misfit who ended up making it big.  A bunch of Glover’s raps revolve around his outcast status as a kid, and how it still sticks with him today. While this could be seen as just another rich and successful dude finding a bunch of stuff to complain about (Kanye), I’m looking at it a bit differently.  Perhaps it’s because I’m intrigued by the roles that race—Glover’s topic of choice—plays in society today, but there’s plenty of stuff worth mulling over to be found in this record.

Raised in the predominantly white Stone Mountain, Georgia (30 Rock fans should recognize that town), it’s clear that Glover’s music wouldn’t be the same if it weren’t for his search for an identity—a search that appears to continue even today. Never “black enough” to fit in with the black kids, and never fully accepted by the white kids, Glover’s got raps on raps about a childhood filled with chants of “oreo” and much worse.  While he’s usually able to turn these around by pointing out that he’s doing fine now, it’s clear that Glover has a whole lot of deep-seated anger, frustration, and confusion that won’t be leaving him anytime soon.

I’m glad that Glover uses rap as an outlet; he’s got some good stories to tell.  They’re not all about race, either—plenty of these songs are about life and its tendency to suck.  Fortunately, Glover is not above turning that into a pun. His sense of humor is still there, it’s just much less prominent than when he’s on TV.

Day 257: Holy Ghost! – Holy Ghost!

12 Nov

Do It Again

Anyone who says that they don’t have guilty pleasure music is lying through their teeth.  As great of a person as I’m sure you are, there’s no way that there is nothing in your eclectic and electric library of music that you don’t feel a tad embarrassed about.  I write all of this because the type of people that claim to have no guilty pleasure music are also the type that listen to Holy Ghost!  And Holy Ghost! is guilty pleasure music defined.

Now, I’m not saying that Holy Ghost!’s self titled LP should not be listened to or enjoyed—it’s far to catchy to be altogether ignored.  But I am saying that it is perfectly reasonable to feel like an idiot for listening to and enjoying this music.

With an ’80s-on-steroids sound, and some of the most cringe-inducing lyrics that have ever been written, I spent a good portion of this album trying to convince myself that this music is actually awful.   About halfway through, my subconscious finally decided to admit that it might have been enjoying itself just a bit.  As bad as I feel about this, I was bobbing my head along with the solid beats and catchy synths for the duration of this record.

At just under 50 minutes in length, perhaps there’s a little more Holy Ghost! than necessary packed into a single release, but that’s just another flaw on this album’s long list of miscues. Still, I ended up overlooking all of those, throwing my standards out the window, and actually enjoying this record.  It’s weird…I’m hating, but at the same time, I’m not.