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Friday, May 31, 2013

So Much for G

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Well, another letter down! That was quick. As I write these so far in advance of publishing them, I'm actually working on the tail end of "I" right now. I can't even remember what's in "H." You are in for about as many surprises as I am.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Grimes -- Visions

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You ever wonder what would happen if someone combined those songs from the end of anime movies with the music from a really seedy, late-night 80's dance club?
No you didn't, you liar, and that was a rhetorical question, and also I can't hear you because I'm your computer monitor.
Anyway, apparently someone from Canada named Claire Boucher decided she did wonder what that sounded like and for some reason, called herself Grimes and started making music that sounded that way. Also, she apparently likes Mariah Carey a lot, so there's that element, too. So imagine Mariah Carey has a lisp, sings like a chipmunk, and combines anime closing songs with weird 80's dance music, and that's basically Grimes' third album, Visions, in a nut shell. That this album works at all must have something to do with Boucher's sensibilities, because it really, really shouldn't.
Visions can be divided into two unequal sections. Awesome weird, which actually comprises the majority of the album, and weird, weird, which only encompasses small moments of the album. Basically, the chipmunk sounds like it's on way too much acid for those overly strange spaces. I have no idea why I keep saying "basically" because there is nothing basic about this crazy music, which is certainly an acquired taste. So in the interest of saying "basically" one more time without quotation marks, Visions is basically a very good album when Boucher is balancing her weirdness with her keen ear for a good beat and melody, but in a few fleeting moments, not so good when it sounds like Boucher is trying to scare away her neighbors.
For an example of awesome weird, check out these two videos. The first, for "Genesis," features Boucher and a bunch of weirdos acting weird. They basically look like anime characters who accidentally wandered into the real world. I mean, she's wearing a Sailor Moon costume. The second features more male nudity than I would usually call awesome, but Boucher seems so good-natured as she bounces around in her awful sweaters and pink hair, smacking her gum, that it's all good.
It's all good.

2012 4AD/Arbutus
1. Infinite ♡ Without Fulfillment 1:36
2. Genesis 4:15
3. Oblivion 4:12
4. Eight 1:48
5. Circumambient 3:43
6. Vowels = Space and Time 4:21
7. Visiting Statue 1:59
8. Be a Body (侘寂) 4:20
9. Colour of Moonlight (Antiochus) (featuring Doldrums) 4:00
10. Symphonia IX (My Wait Is U) 4:53
11. Nightmusic (featuring Majical Cloudz) 5:03
12. Skin 6:09
13. Know the Way (Outro) 1:45

Monday, May 27, 2013

Greenday -- 21st Century Breakdown

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I gave Greenday's American Idiot a great review with the caveat that with enough time a monkey could type a Shakespearean play word for word. I came to that admittedly mean opinion after being enticed to buy American Idiot's followup, 21st Century Breakdown. I mistakenly credited Greenday's age and apparent growing experience, maturity, and skill as being responsible for American Idiot's excellence, and I highly anticipated 21st Century Breakdown. Turns out I was wrong. 21st Century Breakdown is awful. It was those stupid monkeys all along.
Greenday apparently thought they were pretty awesome for creating American Idiot and tried to recapture lightning in a bottle for 21st Century Breakdown. I am taking the previous expression as literally peeing in a bottle during a long roadtrip and watching sparks mysteriously shoot out. That's what happened with American Idiot. 21st Century Breakdown is 70-minutes of piss in a 10-minute bottle.
21st Century Breakdown is a concept album without a concept, expensively produced, regurgitated bare-bones rock music with insipid, simplistic, over-generalized, bloodless lyrics.  Several times throughout the album, particularly on "East Jesus Nowhere," I was reminded of Spinal Tap's "Gimme Some Money."

The difference is that "Gimme Some Money" is supposed to be funny. In fact, I hate this album so much, "Gimme Some Money" is the only music I am going to post on this review. Billy Joe Armstrong also displays how ignorant and hateful he truly is on "East Jesus Nowhere" with the line "I want to know who's allowed to breed, all the dogs who never learned to read." Well, sorry that the rest of the country can't live up to the high standard set by Berkeley, California, douchebag. I'll let you get back to your eugenics project and bad music while the rest of us run bored laps around our kennels.

2009 Reprise
1. Song of the Century 0:57
Act I: Heroes and Cons
2. 21st Century Breakdown 5:09
3. Know Your Enemy 3:11
4. ¡Viva la Gloria! 3:31
5. Before the Lobotomy 4:37
6. Christian's Inferno 3:07
7. Last Night on Earth 3:57
Act II: Charlatans and Saints
8. East Jesus Nowhere 4:35
9. Peacemaker 3:24
10. Last of the American Girls 3:51
11. Murder City 2:54
12. ¿Viva la Gloria? (Little Girl) 3:48
13. Restless Heart Syndrome 4:21
Act III: Horseshoes and Handgrenades
14. Horseshoes and Handgrenades 3:14
15. The Static Age 4:17
16. 21 Guns 5:21
17. American Eulogy (A. Mass Hysteria / B. Modern World) 4:26
18. See the Light 4:36

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Friday, May 24, 2013

Greenday -- American Idiot

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I hate Greenday. I really, really hate them. I think it probably started sometime in the seventh grade. "When I Come Around" had just hit the radio, and all the guys from my class were singing it in their new, deep voices. My voice finally changed last year, when I turned 31, but I can still hear my classmates evil, orc-like rounds of "When I Come Around" circling the classroom. I hated that song, I hated Billy Joe Armstrong's nasal, bratty whine, I hated all the stupid masturbation songs, I hated when they started using acoustic guitars in an effort to be "mature," and I hated their hair. I hate Greenday.
Anyway, according to "infinite monkey theorem," an infinite amount of monkey's over an infinite amount of time could randomly reproduce an entire Shakespeare play. Similarly, out of eleven Greenday albums, there is one I like a lot, though it kind of cheated its way into my heart.
This review serves as another entry into the cannon of my life in 2005. Late in that summer, after enduring quite an emotional, mental, psychological, and even to some degree, physical, beating, I was latching onto any positivity I could, especially musically. This included MTV 2's new, short-lived re-dedication to music, the emergence of the Fuse channel, and a couple of really good VH1 storyteller episodes, including an episode dedicated to Greenday. The band performed this nine-minute song, and immediately hooked me.

I did a little research, discovered that the recently released American Idiot contained this song, and immediately purchased it. I'm a sucker for concepts and experimentation, and a crappy ex-punk band revisiting those roots and recording nine minute songs worked for me. Those guys somehow knew I was living with my parents with no job or prospects and a serious case of depression, because it sounded like they wrote a lot of these songs for me. "American Idiot" is about a guy who gets disillusioned with his life, makes up a more fun persona for himself, has some good times, falls in love, then kills that part of himself to basically become a responsible, paper-pushing adult. The week I bought this album, I put in about ten job applications to state agencies for office jobs. I was feeling almost every minute of American Idiot, including the political overtones, which thankfully take a backseat to the more personal story of the main character. I don't think frontman, Billy Joe Armstrong, is much of a writer, but his monkeys typed long enough here to tell a fairly relatable story, which stays general enough to be easily identified with by just about anyone. American Idiot is quite a healing experience, especially for those who have to grow up.
The album even closes with the main character reminiscing about "Whatsername," a girl he used to love who ran off with someone else, and who he wants to forget. I had a serious case of a "Whatsername" that summer, myself, except she eventually dumped the "Whathisface" and married me. That kind of cuts off my relation to "American Idiot," and I can only listen to it with a strange sort of nostalgia now, reflecting on times, fondly as I always do, especially in these reviews. So objectively looking at American Idiot, it's a really good album that rarely loses its way. It isn't anywhere close to Shakespeare, but as a mid-00's rock opera about the State of the Nation of a mid-20's washout, it paints a pretty excellent picture, and it's a pretty transcendent experience. I still hate Greenday, though.

Also, after listening to this song the first time, I almost took its advice to "burn all the photographs." I'm glad I didn't.

2004 Reprise
1. American Idiot 2:54
2. Jesus of Suburbia
  I. Jesus of Suburbia
  II. City of the Damned
  III. I Don't Care
  IV. Dearly Beloved
  V. Tales of Another Broken Home 9:08
3. Holiday 3:52
4. Boulevard of Broken Dreams 4:20
5. Are We the Waiting 2:42
6. St. Jimmy 2:56
7. Give Me Novacaine 3:25
8. She's a Rebel 2:00
9. Extraordinary Girl 3:33
10. Letterbomb 4:05
11. Wake Me Up When September Ends 4:45
12. Homecoming
    I. The Death of St. Jimmy
    II. East 12th St.
    III. Nobody Likes You
    IV. Rock and Roll Girlfriend
    V. We're Coming Home Again 9:18
13. Whatsername 4:14

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Grant Kirkhope -- Banjo-Kazooie N64 OST

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Back in the Nintendo 64's heyday, which also coincided with my time in high school, one of my favorite daily activities was checking (the now mostly defunct) IGN64's news updates as soon as I got home. When IGN64 first announced Banjo Kazooie sometime in 1997, I couldn't wait to play it. The screenshots and artwork looked awesome. Though Banjo Kazooie ended up getting delayed until the summer of 1998, it was well worth the wait. The gameplay, characters, graphics, and even humor were and still are excellent, but for me, the longstanding legacy of Banjo Kazooie has been the music. I've still got it in my head fifteen years later. My brother recorded himself whistling some of it as his ringtone, and he's getting it stuck like a virus in strangers' heads to this day.
Banjo Kazooie features a couple dozen main themes, and each of the game's thirteen highly diverse worlds has one. The game's score was designed to be dynamic, and it changes subtly throughout each world, becoming more ambient when one dives underwater, loftier as one reaches greater heights, or creepier when one rounds the wrong corner. As such, if one (I keep saying about a bunny trail? Excellent, I won't even close this parenthesis.
While the N64 was the party machine, featuring a ton of excellent mutli-player games to keep the player and his or her friends up all night, it also featured some intensely personal one-player experiences. The greatest of all of these is obviously The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, but we'll get to good time. Anyway, Banjo-Kazooie ranks quite high on the list of single-player N64 adventures, though its excellent sense of humor and variety also makes it a great game for spectators. The simple fact that you have a highly irritable, acrobatic bird in your backpack attests to this fact. I guess I'll close the parenthesis now.)
I don't remember what I was going to say before that parenthetical took over. It doesn't really matter. Banjo Kazooie is an imaginative, absorbing, and fun game. It allows the player to escape into an inviting fantasy world, and the soundtrack makes the trip oh so much more enjoyable.
Here's the music from Click Clock Wood, a level the player can visit during all four seasons. Every season features a new twist on the level's musical theme. It's pretty much the best thing ever. If you don't believe me, search for Click Clock Wood on Youtube and look at all the love that pops up.

If I could go back to visit my sixteen year old self, as he sits on his bed and plays this game, this is what I would do to him:

Monday, May 20, 2013

Grammatrain -- Flying

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Grammatrain's second album, Flying, is a more mature effort than the band's debut. It finds Grammatrain segueing from their more jam-band/grungish ways to something akin to late 90's alternative. The songwriting also improves vastly in the process. Opener "Jonah" rocks as hard as anything Grammatrain have recorded, but it's also written a level above their past work. "Flying" and "Peace" showcase a new-found subtlety and sensitivity Grammatrain's debut barely hinted. A slight melancholy feel, matched by the excellent album cover, trickles through Flying's eleven tracks, as well.
The one important detriment to these changes is that the album overall can sound a bit generic. If you lived through the 90's rock scene, and you've never heard this album, you've heard this album. So while Flying features some great songs and is quite solid overall, it doesn't bring much new to the table, either. It's good stuff, not great, but good nostalgia is better than bad anything.

1997 Forefront Records
1. Jonah 2:41
2. Less of Me 2:48
3. Flying 5:11
4. Rocketship 2:25
5. Peace 4:13
6. Pain 4:46
7. Sell Your Soul 3:22
8. Fuse 3:48
9. Spiderweb 3:16
10. Found in You 4:44
11. For Me 8:50
12. (Untitled) 0:04

Friday, May 17, 2013

Grammatrain -- Lonely House

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Like a lot of kids, I looked up to my older cousins. This can be trouble if your older cousins are deviants, but thankfully, mine weren't. One in particular, who I will simply refer to as The Lieutenant, became my music guru. The Lieutenant loved rock music and had a vast array of classic and modern rock knowledge. He also had the most impressive Christian Rock collection I have ever seen, though it was stolen by someone acting particularly awful during the summer of 2000. Another cousin my age who I've referenced before, The Rabbit, and I spent countless hours jamming out to awesome music in The Lieutenant's car, as he showed us band after awesome band. Grammatrain was one of those bands.
Grammatrain's debut album, Lonely House, is a groovy, jammy rock album with some punk, metal, and grunge influences. It rocks pretty hard, and the brother-composed rhythm section really sets the tone. I realize something about this album now, though. Back in the 90's, we ("we" stands in for my awesome crew) often said, "Yeah, Grammatrain, Lonely House!" and proceeded to rock out to the first few tracks. Lonely House is a very long album for this type of music. Thirteen tracks with five broaching five minutes or more is a lot of groovy jamming. I think, somewhere around the middle, we often forgot we'd put Lonely House on, and moved to something else. Lonely House gets into something good, and keeps doing that good thing, but it's a WHOLE lot of that good thing. Lockstep grooves and guitar solos only go so far. The highlights for me are when the band sort of go off the reservation, which doesn't happen much, but usually results in something special. My particular favorite is the slow building release of "Need,"

, though the quiet seething of album closer, "Apathy" is also quite satisfying. The latter song also contains the lyrical nugget, "I guess I'm just not good enough for Christ to shake my hand/I was born below you and I'll try to understand," aimed obviously at someone who is too big for their britches. And on that archaic "britches" reference, I'll end this review with the observation that I still pull out Lonely House to jam and relive the good ole days, but once I get to track eight, I usually skip ahead to "Apathy" and then call it a night. I've still gotten a good half hour of music, and good vibes to last a week.

1995 Forefront Records
1. She Don't Know 2:32
2. Believe 3:36
3. Execution 3:56
4. Lonely House 5:43
5. Psycho 5:42
6. Sick of Will 3:01
7. Need 6:28
8. Drown 3:55
9. Undivine Election 3:35
10. Jerky Love Song 0:40
11. Humanity 4:24
12. Picture Pains 6:32
13. Apathy 2:58

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Graeme Norgate (with Grant Kirkhope) -- Goldeneye 007 N64 OST

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Sometime near the start of my sophomore year of high school in 1997, I saw a commercial for Goldeneye 007 for the Nintendo 64.

I immediately sold my Super Nintendo (a horrible mistake, though one I later rectified) and bought a Nintendo 64 (a great idea). The late 90's featured a huge debate between the Nintendo 64 and Sony PlayStation crowds. I fell into the Nintendo camp. The Playstation fans argued that their disc-based system could feature better sound and full speech. Those things were true, but that missed the point of what made the Nintendo 64 so great: it was backed up by a ton of incredibly awesome games. Goldeneye was one of the best, but I had to wait nearly sixth months for the local New Roads Wal-Mart to stock it. In early March of 1998, during the final week of basketball season (and during a very nasty, extended bout of insomnia), I got my copy of the game and replaced the hours I'd spent setting screens and making layups with hours setting proximity mines, and filling enemy soldiers full of Nintendo 64-rendered lead.
Goldeneye was quite a game, one of those N64 gems that gave loners an excellent quest to complete, secrets to earn, and for everyone else, a multiplayer mode that has yet to be eclipsed. The N64 was known as the "party machine" for this last factor--it had four controller ports so that friends could play together. The PlayStation had two. Suck it, PlayStation.
Anyway, Goldeneye was quite a game, but I'm not here to review it. I'm here to review its awesome soundtrack. Goldeneye 007's N64 soundtrack works on three levels: 1. It does a good job of operating in the vein of Éric Serra's soundtrack for the film it is based upon. 2. It does a good job of operating in the spirit of the James Bond universe. 3. It does a good job of operating in the strange aural world of the Nintendo 64. The system's tones and pitches are ingrained upon the minds of millions of impressionable kids who grew up on or came of age while playing it. Nintendo 64 was the first system to successfully pull off 3D, but because it was the first, it featured a lot of empty, lower-detail, grayish rooms, and foggy, minimalistic landscapes (The system also featured vibrant colors as well, but there is a certain blur that unites all N64 games together.). These familiar sounds I'm describing are the soundtrack for these rooms and landscapes. Goldeneye's soundtrack perfectly captures this trademark N64 aura, even as it propels the game's fast-paced, exciting gameplay.

If you want a nostalgia burst, you can download the entire soundtrack here. It was never formally released, so there's no need to feel guilty. Rare, the best N64 third-party developer, had a trifecta of awesome composers working on their N64 game soundtracks. Throughout these reviews, there will be more on them to fact, really soon. The story of the N64 has just begun!*
*(Explanation Point neccessary due to reviewer enthusiasm)

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Gotye -- Making Mirrors

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Pop music is often like the result of a large group of people trying to decide on a restaurant. Once the group gets too big, everyone just has to settle for McDonald's, and McDonald's sucks. Pop music is music made for the largest group of people possible. It almost always sucks.
It doesn't always suck, though. Peter Gabriel's 1986 album, So, is one of my favorite of all time, and I can't even pretend that it isn't pop music. It went platinum five times. However, So is full of imaginative, powerfully emotional songs. Gabriel managed to capture the zeitgeist of popular tastes at the time, and yet create something timeless and artful.
So anyway, here's this Gotye kid. As of this posting, his video for the song "Somebody That I Used to Know" has over 400,000,000 views on Youtube. That is not an exaggeration. It's a fact.

That's a lot of eyeballs, but "Somebody That I Used To Know" is a really cool video, and the song is great. It somehow matches the tastes of millions, but hits the highest common denominator of the pack. This doesn't happen often. This Gotye guy is special.
You know what?
Screw this.
This is South Louisiana. From here on out, it's Gauthier.
The rest of Gauthier's Making Mirrors is just as experimental, sometimes not as poppy, but always rings true to the vision of a talented, individual artist. This guy isn't the product of a corporate boardroom. He's legit. Even when he's failing, like on the Motown-inspired mistake, "I Feel Better," his earnest delivery carries the song. He's best off in the Gabriel vein, though, creating vast aural landscapes to plant his melodies upon, especially on "Eyes Wide Open." He does a great job of tightly controlling a song, but knows when the album needs to breathe, like the expansive, darkly self-critical "Smoke and Mirrors," or the delightfully strange "State of the Art."
Gabriel was in his mid-30's when he recorded So. Gauthier will be there in a few years. I'm excited to see what this time in the spotlight will do to him. I hope it elevates Gauthier to a position where he grabs his opportunity to craft a timeless classic (which Making Mirrors is not, fine album though it is), and doesn't fizzle him out like so many others. Considering the talent he shows on Making Mirrors, the former seems far more likely.

2011 Eleven
1. Making Mirrors 1:01
2. Easy Way Out 1:57
3. Somebody That I Used to Know (featuring Kimbra) 4:04
4. Eyes Wide Open 3:11
5. Smoke and Mirrors 5:13
6. I Feel Better 3:18
7. In Your Light 4:39
8. State of the Art 5:22
9. Don't Worry, We'll Be Watching You 3:18
10. Giving Me a Chance 3:07
11. Save Me 3:53
12. Bronte 3:18

Friday, May 10, 2013

Gorillaz -- The Fall

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At the end of 2010, just nine months after their last album dropped, Gorillaz returned with a new full length. Here in early 2013, after a recent spat between musical frontman, Damon Albarn, and artwork frontman, Jamie Hewlett, we may never get another Gorillaz album. Very fitting then, that The Fall could be their final work.
The Fall is a completely different beast from the rest of Gorillaz's recorded output. Gone are the guest spots that outnumber the track count. Two songs feature instrumental input from some old men that used to be in this band called The Clash. Another features the excellent vocal guest work of living legend, Bobby Womack. The Fall is just as genre-less as the rest of Gorillaz's work, but it completely eliminates any rapping, a four or five track staple of all the rest of their albums--there are no late-night visitors, ala Demon Days. This album is almost all Albarn.
As such, instead of coming off as a collaborative effort like the rest of the band's work, The Fall feels intensely personal, a confessional through the mouthpiece of an animated monkey. Albarn recorded the entire album on his IPad during Gorillaz's Plastic Beach tour. The Fall is thus a travelogue of sorts, a way for Albarn to vent his emotions and feelings (editors note: aren't those two things the same?) as he travels across America. In this sense, The Fall is reminiscent of Kevin Shield's soundtrack for the film Lost in Translation. The Fall very much contains the sense of wandering across a foreign land, feeling homesick, yet enjoying the experience. Albarn throws a lot of weird sounds onto this album, yet fuses and familiarizes them with the organic, whether with a picked guitar, a strummed ukulele, or a nostalgic wave of noise.
While The Fall might not contain the epic feel and catharsis of Gorillaz's two masterpiece LP's, Demon Days and Plastic Beach, I have a soft spot for its unique and intimate nature. It also reminds me of the more whimsical moments on múm's Finally We Are No One, though I wouldn't go so far as to call The Fall whimsical. It's a document of a strangely alien, yet wonderful period in someone's life, one I'm grateful was shared. I feel like that last sentence needed more adverbs. Here, I'll set this song up with some to end the review. "Hillbilly Man" starts off with a gorgeous and achingly beautiful melody before wandering off the beaten path to encounter a big beat and some bizarrely...wait, is it still an adverb if it's describing an adjective? Was there supposed to be a comma in there? Joel Schumacher's directing skills, I HATE English!

2010 Parlophone
1. Phoner to Arizona 4:14
2. Revolving Doors 3:26
3. HillBilly Man (featuring Mick Jones) 3:50
4. Detroit 2:03
5. Shy-town 2:54
6. Little Pink Plastic Bags 3:09
7. The Joplin Spider 3:22
8. The Parish of Space Dust 2:25
9. The Snake in Dallas 2:11
10. Amarillo 3:24
11. The Speak It Mountains 2:14
12. Aspen Forest (featuring Paul Simonon) 2:50
13. Bobby in Phoenix (featuring Bobby Womack) 3:16
14. California and the Slipping of the Sun 3:24
15. Seattle Yodel 0:38

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Gorillaz -- Plastic Beach

10/10 sort of

Let me speak in non-absolutes so that I can never be wrong.
If Demon Days was sort of a night album, and sort of a space album, its follow-up, Plastic Beach, is kind of a day album, kind of an ocean album, and kind of a discussion about consumerism and waste. Plastic Beach sometimes satires the wastefulness of using and throwing out so many things, yet also sometimes finds a strange serendipity in the results. The Plastic Beach, composed of waste and trash, sort of becomes a place of peace and rest. Thus, Plastic Beach somehow miraculously duplicates the transformatively positive feelings of Demon Days, even though it goes about doing so in different ways, kind of.
Musically, Plastic Beach sort of continues Gorillaz' genreless wanderings, as there is possibly no real way to describe this music in genre terms. There's some rapping sometimes, and some pop-singing sometimes, and some soul-singing, and some electronic stuff, and some more organic sounding stuff, I think. It just is, for the most part.
What must be said with certainty, though, probably, is that none of this would work without great songs. Plastic Beach pretty much features standout after standout, as Damon Albarn's guest-star selection skills kind of continue to shine. I don't know how Albarn pulled Bobby Womack out of retirement and a sinking lack of confidence, but Womack is the star of this album, maybe. The two tracks Womack sings on kind of anchor the album, his worn voice soaring high over Plastic Beach's musical seas. The first, "Stylo," features a video featuring probably the perfect guest star.

Womack also leads the stunning pen-ultimate track, "Cloud of Unknowing" which pretty much sums up the ultimate ends of human emotion and thought. I'm serious, I think.

I think Albarn also talked Womack into recording a solo album, The Bravest Man in the Universe, after boosting Womack's confidence with these songs. It's sort of awesome.
The best thing Plastic Beach has going for it, probably, is its undoubtedly human touches, perhaps proving a band composed of animated monkeys can do a better job of conveying emotion than some human ones. "Melancholy Hill" kind of touches on the classic sadness/happiness combination feeling that the French probably have a word for.

I think it took Gorillaz five years to follow-up Demon Days with this. If they can do it again with Plastic Beach's successor, I'll gladly wait another half a decade...I think...probably...sort of...kind on Earth do you hipster writers talk this way all the time?

2010 Parlophone/Virgin
1. Orchestral Intro (featuring sinfonia ViVA) 1:09
2. Welcome to the World of the Plastic Beach (featuring Snoop Dogg and Hypnotic Brass Ensemble) 3:35
3. White Flag (featuring Bashy, Kano and the Lebanese National Orchestra for Oriental Arabic Music) 3:42
4. Rhinestone Eyes 3:19
5. Stylo (featuring Bobby Womack and Mos Def) 4:29
6. Superfast Jellyfish (featuring De La Soul and Gruff Rhys) 2:54
7. Empire Ants (featuring Little Dragon) 4:43
8. Glitter Freeze (featuring Mark E. Smith) 4:02
9. Some Kind of Nature (featuring Lou Reed) 2:59
10. On Melancholy Hill 3:53
11. Broken 3:16
12. Sweepstakes (featuring Mos Def and Hypnotic Brass Ensemble) 5:19
13. Plastic Beach (featuring Mick Jones and Paul Simonon) 3:46
14. To Binge (featuring Little Dragon) 3:55
15. Cloud of Unknowing (featuring Bobby Womack and sinfonia ViVA) 3:05
16. Pirate Jet (featuring The Purple, the People, the Plastic Eating People) 2:32

Monday, May 06, 2013

Gorillaz -- D-Sides

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D-Sides title is supposed to be a joke, a play on the fact that the songs contained within are the B-Sides from the album Demon Days. The title might as well be literal. These are D-Grade songs at best. They are at an absolutely embryonic, demo stage. From what I can gather, Damon Albarn recorded about 30 very rough demos for the excellent Demon Days, took the best fifteen, re-worked them, polished them, filled them out, and sequenced them for that album. The rest are left here to languish, and it's easy to see why they didn't make it to Demon Days. These players are not ready for prime time. The entirety of D-Sides has the same blurry, unfinished feeling as Gorillaz self-titled debut, but Gorillaz has some great songs. D-Sides has only one song that even approaches that level, and that is "Hong Kong," which was originally featured on a War Child charity album.

"Hong Kong"'s beautiful, Eastern instrumentation classes up the place a little bit, but not enough.
D-Sides second disc is full of remixes of Demon Days songs. I don't mean little tinkerings of the songs, though. I mean, full on, ten-minute "I am on ecstasy and sweating so much I might be swimming, but I'm not quite sure" remixes. They are decent for what they are. "DARE" and "Kids with Guns" get three-remixes a piece, and three other songs get single remixes to round out the tracklist. I listened to disc two once when I first got this album. I listened to it again for this review. That was enough. Stick to Gorillaz regular full-lengths.

2007 Parlophone/Virgin
Disc one
1. 68 State 4:48
2. People 3:27
3. Hongkongaton 3:33
4. We Are Happy Landfill 3:39
5. Hong Kong 7:15
6. Highway (Under Construction) 4:20
7. Rockit 3:33
8. Bill Murray (featuring The Bees) 3:52
9. The Swagga 4:57
10. Murdoc Is God 2:26
11. Spitting Out the Demons 5:10
12. Don't Get Lost In Heaven (original demo version) 2:59
13. Stop the Dams (featuring Ghostigital) 5:38

Disc two
1. DARE (DFA remix) 12:14
2. Feel Good Inc. (Stanton Warriors remix) 7:24
3. Kids with Guns (Jamie T's Turns to Monsters mix) 4:22
4. DARE (Soulwax remix) 5:42
5. Kids with Guns (Hot Chip remix) 7:09
6. El Mañana (Metronomy remix) 5:44
7. DARE (Junior Sanchez remix) 5:26
8. Dirty Harry (Schtung Chinese New Year remix) 3:53
9. Kids with Guns (Quiet Village remix) 10:08

Friday, May 03, 2013

Gorillaz -- Demon Days


So I've posted before about my summer of 2005 decent to mental darkness. Several albums helped pick me up out of that funk. I've reviewed some of them already. Blindside's The Great Depression. Dredg's Catch Without Arms. Some I will soon, like Greenday's American Idiot. I hate Greenday.
Anyway, if there's an album tailor-made to get someone out of a funk, it's Gorillaz's Demon Days. The Damon Albarn/Jamie Hewlett created project prove on their second album that they aren't an animated gimmick--Gorillaz is a great band.
Demon Days positive aspects are numerative and I hate this review and all its stupid sentences and that I just used the word "numerative" incorrectly instead of just saying numerous. I'm completely ruining things. Let's try to get back on track...
Like Gorillaz self-titled debut, Demon Daysis genreless. Unlike the band's debut, which became a muddy mess at times, Demon Days sound is textured, nuanced, and something completely new. More than anything, it's a world apart to itself. I'm a sucker for that sort of self-containment. Wait, there's an even greater "more than anything" coming in the next sentence. Demon Days greatest asset over Gorillaz self-titled debut is a simple one: Demon Days is actually an album instead of just a collection of songs.
The album starts off sleepily and seems to wake up as it goes along its excellent emotional journey. By the 4th 5th (that was fun to say), the songs are incredibly loose and awake. This leads into the final, connected trilogy of songs, which feature spoken word by Dennis Hopper, a gospel choir, and reggae. These three things shouldn't go together, and they certainly shouldn't work, but they do on a solar level. The enjoyable strain of chilled melancholy that runs throughout the rest of the album is transformatively paid off with joy and optimism. It's almost impossible not to feel better than one did fifty-one minutes earlier, as the gospel choir triumphantly belt out their final round of "turn yourself around, to the sun." I know I did on every consecutive listen eight years ago, and I have on every listen I've done recently for this review. It's pretty great to have an album mean a lot to you for a specific moment, yet find it still has that effect on you years later. The final rapped line of the midnight-evoking "All Alone" still makes me feel as equally triumphant today as it did when I literally was all alone eight years ago. I really, really love this album. It means more to me than I can express and it's a shame that I've botched this review because it deserves far better.
As with all Gorillaz albums, the visual aspect is almost as important as the audio. As MTV2 made a short-lived attempt to get back into the music video business in the summer of 2005, and the newer Fuse channel was really making a push to posit itself as the best place to watch music videos, I spent a lot of nights enjoying the audio/visual excellence of "Feel Good Inc."

The band did several videos for this album, and they are all pretty awesome. I suggest you check them out. Geez, I really hate this review. Can I try again in one quick, metaphysical burst? Thanks, here goes:
Imagine everything has gone wrong for you and you feel like life itself has abandoned you. You can't sleep at night, and you are haunted by how awful things have gone. Suddenly, on the longest night of all, you are visited by fifteen consecutive spectral visitors. Each one performs an exorcism on some small part of you. By the time they're gone, your demons are, too, and the sun is up and you feel incredible. What happened in the past doesn't matter. You can do anything. That's Gorillaz' Demon Days.

2005 Parlophone
1. Intro (sampled from the original score of the 1978 film Dawn of the Dead) 1:03
2. Last Living Souls 3:10
3. Kids with Guns (featuring Neneh Cherry) 3:45
4. O Green World 4:31
5. Dirty Harry (featuring Bootie Brown and The San Fernandez Youth Chorus) 3:43
6. Feel Good Inc. (featuring De La Soul) 3:41
7. El Mañana 3:50
8. Every Planet We Reach is Dead (featuring Ike Turner) 4:53
9. November Has Come (featuring MF DOOM) 2:41
10. All Alone (featuring Roots Manuva and Martina Topley-Bird) 3:30
11. White Light 2:08
12. DARE (featuring Shaun Ryder) 4:04
13. Fire Coming Out of the Monkey's Head (featuring Dennis Hopper) 3:16
14. Don't Get Lost in Heaven (featuring The London Community Gospel Choir) 2:00
15. Demon Days (featuring The London Community Gospel Choir) 4:28

This Is Going to Be Huge

I can get into this, but it makes me feel old that I have a decade on anyone in this video.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

The First Season of The Americans Was Incredible

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When FX has premiered new shows, the worst have been just interesting, and the best have been incredibly awesome. Their track record is excellent. The early promos for The Americans were pretty interesting, but they only played up the spy thriller stuff and the show's angle--an early 80's, all-American couple with a family are actually KGB agents.
The Americans has turned out to be far more quiet and introspective than advertised. That's not to say the show hasn't featured thrilling action or suspense. It often has and in fact has convinced me that Keri Russell could defeat a grizzly bear in hand to hand combat. Underlying all that stuff, though, have been some of the most sophisticated and nuanced character studies on television. The Americans has also featured a refreshingly honest take on the difficulties of marriage, a feat most shows don't even attempt. I was just hoping for a good show, but instead the first season of The Americans turned out to be great. You should definitely watch it. It is available on Amazon, and some episodes are even up on FX's website. Don't deprive yourself of television goodness when it is right there in front of you.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Gorillaz -- Gorillaz

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I don't think it's a stretch to say Gorillaz are the greatest animated simian band of all time (including the Monkees). That said, their first album, Gorillaz, is weird. Granted, it comes from a weird time. After the 20th  Century ended on such a high note, there were many possible futures. Gorillaz self-titled debut exists in the twilight ether of the start of the 21st Century. The party is still going on and hopefully going to last, but who knows what's about to happen? Gorillaz odd, sleepy chillout mix of trip-hop, rap, and rock reflects this. A few months later, some planes would hit some buildings, and instead of a new century of hope, we found ourselves in a fearful situation, constant wars, tanking economy, the future now not just uncertain, but darkly uncertain. I've discussed the strange lost period between the start of the century and 9/11 before. Those twenty months could have well been the start or continuation of something beautiful, but life went in another direction.
Likewise, this album could have been a classic, but isn't, in this case because it can't find any focus. The genre-blending turns into more of a fuzzy gray than something distinct. There's no flow from track to track, and there are A LOT of tracks. Then again, there are some really awesome songs, put to some really awesome videos.

In fact, there are enough good songs to make this album at least qualify as "good enough." And while that hopeful note of a new century does run through some of the songs, Gorillaz pretty much predict that things aren't going to turn out pretty on track eight, "Sound Check(Gravity)."

"Gravity never let me down gently" sings 2D the Monkey, actually Damon Albarn from Blur. Gorillaz is actually Albarn's musical brainchild, and the visual brainchild of artist, Jamie Hewlett. Like the century, the Gorillaz got much better as time progressed. Here their sound is only embryonic. Also, I'm not sure the century actually got any better. The economy still sucks, our troops are still dying overseas, there are police video cameras on traffic lights, sprawl has increased by staggering amounts, and I hate everything. Well, at least the Gorillaz got better.

2001 Parlophone
1. Re-Hash 3:37
2. 5/4 2:39
3. Tomorrow Comes Today 3:12
4. New Genius (Brother) 3:57
5. Clint Eastwood (featuring Del tha Funkee Homosapien) 5:39
6. Man Research (Clapper) 4:32
7. Punk 1:36
8. Sound Check (Gravity) 4:40
9. Double Bass 4:44
10. Rock the House (featuring Del tha Funkee Homosapien) 4:08
11. 19-2000 3:27
12. Latin Simone (¿Que Pasa Contigo?) (featuring Ibrahim Ferrer) 3:36
13. Starshine 3:31
14. Slow Country 3:35
15. M1 A1 3:49
16. Dracula 4:42
17. Left Hand Suzuki Method 3:07