Sunday, May 9, 2010

The semester of reviews and shit.

alright dicks, i haven't done shit with this in a while. I don't have any stand out ideas as to what to write about, but i did write about music for MTSU's newspaper. I'll post my outrageously opinionated reviews here. there's four of them and then a bonnaroo preview article I wrote with Emma Egli (she's so cool!)

These are the versions of the reviews before those know-it-all-editors got a hold of them and tamed them like a bitch lion. jerks.

anyways, i'll entertain you first with my MGMT review. enjoy.

MGMT scored big with their 2007 release Oracular Spectacular. Their big hit, “Electric Feel”, was heard everywhere. Record stores, Barnes & Noble and even Big Ten fraternity houses. So what did the band decide to do? Follow up their sensation with a single-less, pop-deprived artistic collection of songs called Congratulations. The new record, produced by Peter Kember, is a down beat psycho-folk jam that plays devils advocate with your ears. In an interview with the NME, MGMT’s founding duo Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser stated that they were trying to make an album for the album’s sake so listeners don’t “just figure out what are the best three tracks, download those and not listen to the rest of it.” They certainly did just that.

While MGMT didn’t create a total disaster, they did make something far less substantial than their debut. Most of the song are boring and something that resembles a 12-year-old on acid with a keyboard and an acoustic guitar.

After several hours of listening to the album, it was rare that I found my self skipping around to different tracks. It all works together; the ebb and the flow of the album makes it slightly more accessible. The opening track, “It’s Working,” holds a heavy beat as VanWyngarden wonders aloud if his first acid trip is in effect. The song bares a striking resemblance to ‘80s mega-hit “I Ran (So Far Away)” by A Flock of Seagulls, just with a downplayed hook.

The lone “single” on the album, “Flash Delirium”, is an a weird excuse for a single. The song doesn’t stay in one place long enough during its 4 minutes for you to remember anything about it, other than it’s playful pan flute bridge. While this is cute for a while, it starts to get out of hand. If “Flash Delirium” plays out like a fun songwriting mix and match, then the 12-minute “Siberian Breaks” is a childish psychedelic mess. It’s seems as if the band had a whole bunch of wacky song ideas and threw them together. It worked for the Beatles, but for MGMT, it doesn’t work it the slightest as music to actively listen to. It’s steady stream of mediocre indie elevator music. This is Congratulations at it’s worst.

At it’s best, however, it’s an artistic take on ‘80s electronica. A later track, “Brian Eno,” seems to be the most accessible song on the record. It’s a upbeat rocker about the everlasting influence and genius that is Brian Eno. VanWyngarden puts it best when he describes the track to New York Magazine as a “kind of a vampire-punk-rock song about finding Brian Eno in like a cathedral in Transylvania. He’s like a dark wizard.”

Even with all the strange acid freak-outs on the record, the weirdest moment is the closing title track. This introspective look on fame is a lightly synthesized version of what The Band might have done in the ‘60s. You can’t help but feel a little awkward with their views on the success of their first album when VanWyngarden sings, “But damn my luck and damn these friends…lay down the quilt upon the lawn. Spread my arms and soak up congratulations.” It certainly doesn’t sit right with me.

MGMT is being difficult here on Congratulations, and it’s annoying. I understand they’re trying to fend away the shallow single fiends from “Oracular Spectacular,” but this is a bit overboard. Congratulations is for the most part one huge bore. Sorry MGMT, intentional lack of effort doesn’t work like that. You didn’t get famous because of music like this, and you certainly won’t stay famous with music like this. Hopefully LP3 will be somewhere in the middle of their first two releases. Until then, best keep spinning Oracular Spectacular.

Recommended if you like

-Pink Floyd - “Obscured By Clouds”

-The Flaming Lips - “Embryonic”


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Jonas Brothers and The Beatles.

So, I’m pretty sure The Jonas Brothers will be everyones favorite band in 5 years. I will like them, my sister will like them, my best friend will like them and, dare I say...Pitchfork will most certainly like them. It’s all very obvious to me. They are on the same path as The Beatles. Let me clarify, they will NOT be the next Beatles. They will NOT revolutionize anything. What I mean is this: The Jonas Brothers and The Beatles have a very similar lineage. Started off young, rose a bit, fell hard, then blew up. The only thing thats left for The JoBros to do is make sophisticated music that no one can deny as good, if not great.

Why would any one say this? Well, my only reason to believe what they could become is their influences. I know, I know, Miley Cyrus “loves” Radiohead and Bob Iver. The difference between Miley and The JoBros is that The JoBros are actually talented, where as Miley is a talentless, bumbling fool. The Jonas Brothers like music that matters. Songwriters who made a difference. You won’t write great music if you listen to garbage.

The one thing me and Nick Jonas have in common is our love for Elvis Costello. That lucky son of a bitch got a chance to hang out with Elvis and talk about songwriting. While no one was shocked that Elvis was polite during the meeting, he did shell out some serious, eye opening advise to little Nick.

“See how far you can carry people into the things that you love, and don't be persuaded to keep making the same record. If being a pop star is your ambition, you're bound to be disappointed. There's truth to the idea that little girls who like you now are gonna wake up one day and be embarrassed they felt that way, because they feel like they're more sophisticated now.”

A lot of people argue that they’ll never break out of the Disney world to be legitimate musicians. Look at Justin Timberlake, he broke out and became the closest heir to of the king of pop that I’ve seen. The Brothers will grow up and their contract with Disney will expire. I think once those girls Elvis spoke of wake up and feel embarrassed is the day The Jonas Brothers will turn it around and do something great. The JoBros have to grow with their fans (and win over a few guys in the process). If they do that, they will be the biggest thing since...themselves. I’m hope I’m right.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Warning: This Might Get Awkward...

I feel nothing towards Radiohead. I can’t say I hate them. I can’t say I really like them at all. They have some okay songs. Overall, what’s the fuss? Now, I’m not going to waste my time and your time by bashing Radiohead, because there’s nothing to bad about them, but more importantly, there’s nothing to life altering about them. Radiohead is one of the most underwhelming bands in the 21st century. My first experience with Radiohead was seeing a big poster of Kid A in my guitar “teacher’s”1 room. Then I remember he taught me to play “Street Spirit (Fade Out)” off The Bends. I also remember being ridiculously into the riff, but for whatever reason, I never pursued the band. Every since I got into high school people haven’t shut up about Radiohead. I post from time to time on a message board designated to Alkaline Trio super-fans2. I started a thread to tell everyone about this blog. It somehow turned into this Radiohead bashfest. I’m totally okay with people hating any music, but only if it’s grounded in the music, not the musician. Too many people I know hate Radiohead because of what Thom Yorke does and says3.

Since it’s the end of the decade, year/decade end lists are coming out of the internets woodwork, including the very blog you are reading. Rolling Stone, Pitchfork and Spin all had a Radiohead album as their number one. Paste, The Onion, Wall Street Journal and NME all had Radiohead in their top ten. Does a band like Radiohead really deserve all this praise? No, not really. But I won’t say they deserve no praise, because I am aware that they are bafflingly talented and are an ever-evolving group, which is something I greatly admire. The most frustrating thing about the Radiohead fanatics is their claims that Kid A changed the rock record forever. I disagree. The Beatles and Bob Dylan changed the Rock (with a capital fucking R) album forever. Sgt. Pepper and Highway 61 Revisited took Rock and put a mirror in front of it’s face and told him he was a pathetic bitch. If you can look Paul McCartney in the eye and say that Kid A is Rock record, then maybe you’ll have room to argue here, dear reader. Kid A is undoubtedly a great piece of work, but I have a hard time believing anyone could connect to it in ways that listeners connect to an album like Arcade Fire’s Funeral. Radiohead puts an awkward distance between them and the listener.

I’m sure it seems like this post is just a rip on Radiohead. That’s lame and cliche4. Radiohead does a lot of great things. They revolutionized the distribution side of music. They create thinkin’ man’s music, music that requires you to really listen, which I need for time to time in music. And on every record they try to focus on a new aspect of the band. For example, Thom Yorke spoke about how on In Rainbows they concentrated on percussion. I admire them as artist and they certainly hold a spot in music history.

I know some of you are unwavering Radiohead fans. This post isn’t for you (probably should have mention that earlier). This post is for the people who blindly worship Radiohead or who blindly hate Radiohead. This whole discussion came up because I’m sick of critics copping out and putting Radiohead as the best everything ever. There’s always something better. Always5. You’re just not trying.


1 when I mean “teacher”, I mean a dude I payed to jam with me.

2 Dib Dub,

3 This seems to be an issue with Amy Winehouse too.

4 just so everyone is on the same page, any extreme feeling towards Radiohead is cliche.

5 Always.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

5101520 - As The Years Go By...

I can’t say for certain that I’ve been a music nerd my WHOLE life. But I can’t remember a time where I wasn’t wholeheartedly into some form of music. Here is where I go through the years and get real embarrassed…

Birth-4: I cried a lot.

5-7: When I was 7 my family moved from Holden, Massachusetts to Naperville, Illinois. Our babysitter got my sister and I goodbye presents. My sister got No Doubt’s Tragic Kingdom and I got Space Wars: 20 Space Hits. I have no clue why he go that for me, but MAN did I love it. The only thing I really remember about this was jammin’ so hard to “Cantina Band” from Star Wars, and I can still jam to it. It’s good to know my 7-year-old ears agree with my 19-year-old ears.

8-11: Three words. Third Eye Blind. Yes dear reader, I was a 3eb super fan. I knew every word to every song on both Third Eye Blind and Blue Planet. I would look back every few years to Third Eye Blind and until the last year or so, I absolutely hated it. I was pretty anti-pop music for quite some time. After years of hatred, I gave in and just embraced it for what it is: amazingly well written, irresistible pop music.

12-14.5: I’d like to blame my sister for these three years. I listened to nothing but AC/DC. You think I’m kidding...I’m not. I like to lie to people and say that at this age I listened to Zeppelin, Clapton, GNR, KISS and AC/DC. It was just AC/DC and sometimes a song or two from those other artists (I listen to Led Zeppelin way more now than I ever did). In middle school I had my CD Walkman and a thick CD case filled with AC/DC (21 in all). Everyday I’d listen to a different CD on the bus ride home. I don’t know what was so damn appealing, but I was hooked. I kind of see it as the same reason why some young kids like the hibbity-hop. There’s a big beat to bob along to, and it’s the same flawless formula every time. After three years of nothing but that flawless formula, I began to see the flaws and just got bored. Although, I do jam Powerage once in a while.

14.5-16ish: I’d like to thank Jack Johnson for showing me the light. By that I mean, showing me that modern music could actually be good. During my Junior High years, I was pretty convinced that anything past 1991 was not worth listening to. I remember sitting on my couch and seeing this video. Today it seems stale, but at the time this was the coolest video I ever laid my eyes upon. From Jack Johnson, I started to explore more modern acts. I got into pretty much every pop-punk band on earth. For that time, it was the end all be all. I was so devoted to that music and that scene (or whatever), it was scary. The only bands that still remain a favorite of mine from this period are Alkaline Trio, The Lawrence Arms, OK Go and Coheed & Cambria. The rest sort of make me wanna puke. Though nostalgia gets the best of me sometimes and I spin certain songs by certain bands that will remained unnamed. As for Jack Johnson, I feel like everyone goes through a JJ phase. I've moved on entirely from him but I will always respect him for his music and what he showed me.

16ish-19: These last three years or so have been the most musically explorative years ever. I’ve listened to pretty much anything I can get my hands on. Indie, Hip-Hip, Pop, Jazz, Classic Rock, Classic Country, Folk. Anything...but not everything (save this debate for another time). I’ve done my best to take music at face value. If I didn’t I wouldn’t listen to Hank Williams Sr. Hank is one hell of a song writer, but if you really look at his songs, they’re all the same in almost every sense of the way. They’re all around 2 minutes and 45 seconds, they’re all about some lady, they’re all tongue-in-cheek, they’re all in the key of D and there’s never, ever a bridge. Must I continue? And although they’re shallow country songs, they’re fun and well written. That’s all that matters. I just wish country music now wasn’t such a joke.

In my later high school years, I was a pretty huge elitist when it came to music. If you didn’t listened to what I listened to, it sucked and you sucked. With age came the realization of certain things (okay a lot of things). Most importantly that what someone likes or doesn't like doesn’t really matter. All that matter is what makes you happy. Even if it’s Angels & Airwaves. Though it is hard to not rip on someone when on their facebook, under music, it says “Rascal Flatts, T-Pain, AVA, oldies”. If that’s what they like, the God Bless ‘em. I’d rather the world listen to music, than not at all.

On a final note, I highly encourage everyone to go and do this for your self. If you’d like, post what you listened to throughout the years. It’s really cool to reconnect with your self. I went back a listened to that “Cantina Band” song from Star Wars. It's basically a jazz song, and I got a Jazz boxset for Christmas. Spooky.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

The 101 Best Songs Of The Decade

So I made this list. I slaved over it for a few days. I even wrote out an entry about what makes a good song and what makes a bad song. After writing like two or three pages, my faithful editor told me to try again or scrap it. I scrapped it. You may notice that 2009 songs on this list don't appear in the same order as the 2009 list. I can't explain why. I guess after a few nights rest, my opinions change.

Enjoy. Feel free to discuss.


  1. Outkast - “Hey Ya!”
  2. Gnarls Barkley - “Crazy”
  3. Jay-Z Feat. Alicia Keys - “Empire State of Mind”
  4. Arcade Fire - “Wake Up”
  5. *NSYNC - “Pop”
  6. Outkast - “B.O.B.”
  7. The Swell Season/The Frames/Glen & Mar - “Falling Slowly”
  8. Wilco - “Impossible Germany”
  9. Nelly - “Country Grammar (Hot Shit)”
  10. Kelly Clarkson - “Since U Been Gone”
  11. The Killers - “All These Things That I Have Done”
  12. Justin Timberlake - “Like I Love You”
  13. Queens of The Stone Age - “No One Knows”
  14. The Walkmen - “The Rat”
  15. The Strokes - “Last Night”
  16. Rihanna feat. Jay-Z - “Umbrella”
  17. The White Stripes - “Fell In Love With A Girl”
  18. Brittany Spears - “Womanizer”
  19. Norah Jones - “Don’t Know Why”
  20. Gorillaz - “19-2000 (Soulchild Remix)”
  21. Beyonce - “Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)”
  22. Black Eyed Peas - “Pump it”
  23. Amy Winehouse - “You Know I’m No Good”
  24. Bob Dylan - “Mississippi”
  25. The Raconteurs - “Salute Your Solution”
  26. Ben Kweller - “Fight”
  27. JET - “Are You Gunna Be My Girl”
  28. Animal Collective - “My Girls”
  29. Broken Social Scene - “7/4 (Shoreline)
  30. Modest Mouse - “Float On”
  31. David Bazan - “Bless This Mess”
  32. Ryan Adams & The Cardinals - “Magick”
  33. Dr. Manhattan - “Misses Steward”
  34. Natasha Beddingfield - “Unwritten”
  35. MGMT - “Time To Pretend”
  36. Nine Inch Nails - “The Hand That Feeds”
  37. Sufjan Stevens - “The Tallest Man, The Broadest Shoulders”
  38. Ebu Gogo - “H.U.G.S.”
  39. John Mayer - “Neon”
  40. The Flaming Lips - “Do you Realize???”
  41. OK Go - “You’re So Damn Hot”
  42. Jay-Z feat. The Roots - “Can I Get A…/Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)/Ain’t No N**** (Live)”
  43. Alicia Keys - “Fallin’”
  44. Eminem - “Real Slim Shady”
  45. Christina Auguilera - “Ain’t No Other Man”
  46. Ryan Adams & The Cardinals - “Let It Ride”
  47. Basement Jaxx - “Where’s Your Head At?”
  48. Brittney Spears - “Toxic”
  49. The Hives - “Main Offender”
  50. R. Kelly - “Ignition (Remix)”
  51. Maroon 5 - “This Love”
  52. Wilco - “Jesus ect.”
  53. Alkaline Trio - “Take Lots With Alcohol”
  54. Jimmy Eat World - “The Middle”
  55. Paul Simon - “Father & Daughter”
  56. Iron & Wine - “Woman King”
  57. Kanye West - “The New Workout Plan”
  58. Coldplay - “Yellow”
  59. Arctic Monkeys - “Fake Tales of San Francisco”
  60. The Caesars - “Jerk It Out”
  61. Jay-Z - “Big Pimpin’”
  62. Johnny Cash - “Hurt”
  63. Foo Fighters - “The Pretender”
  64. John Mayer - “Vultures”
  65. The Killers - “Change Your Mind”
  66. Franz Ferdinan - “Take Me Out”
  67. Jay-Z & Linkin Park - “Numb/Encore”
  68. Against Me! - “Walking is Still Honest”
  69. Matt Costa - “Mr. Pitiful”
  70. Coheed & Cambria - “Three Evils (Embodied In Love and Shadows)”
  71. The Fall of Troy - “F.C.P.R.E.M.I.X”
  72. Andrew Bird - “Fake Palindromes”
  73. The Postal Service - “Sleeping In”
  74. Ryan Adams - “Firecracker”
  75. Bright Eyes - “Waste Of Paint”
  76. Flo Rida - “Low”
  77. Green Day - “Minority”
  78. The Raconteurs - “Level”
  79. The Roots - “The Seed (2.0)”
  80. Blink-182 - “Stockholm Syndrome”
  81. Brand New - “Sic Transit Gloria … Glory Fades”
  82. Josh Rouse - “It’s The Nighttime”
  83. Cursive - “Some Red Handed Sleight of Hand”
  84. Jay-Z - “99 Problems”
  85. NOFX - “Separation of Church and Skate”
  86. Ray Lamontange - “Jolene”
  87. Sufjan Stevens - “Romulus”
  88. John Mayer Trio - “Who Did You Think I Was?”
  89. The Faint - “Paranoiattack”
  90. Green Day - “Jesus of Suburbia”
  91. The Hives - “Two-Timing Touch and Broken Bones”
  92. Kings of Leon - “King of The Rodeo”
  93. Wilco - “Handshake Drugs”
  94. Of Montreal - “Dis-connect The Dots”
  95. All-American Rejects - “Dirty Little Secret”
  96. Halfpenny Marvel - “Spectacle & Show”
  97. Beck - “E-Pro”
  98. Bright Eyes - “Lua”
  99. Gorillaz - “Fire Coming Out Of A Monkey’s Head”
  100. Alkaline Trio - “Old School Reasons”
  101. Band Of Horses - “Is There A Ghost”

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Number One

Acoustic guitar, piano, wurlitzer, electric bass, drum kit, electric guitar, oboe, alto saxophone, flute, banjo, glockenspiel, accordion, vibraphone, recorder, casiotone MT-70, sleigh bells, shakers, tambourine, triangle, electric church organ and vocals. One man performed all those instruments on one triumphant record. Sujfan Stevens Invites You to: Come On Feel The Illinoise! (or Illinoise for short) by Sufjan Stevens is the greatest record of the decade and my generation. If you’ve noticed the trend, the things that I connect to home, are my personal favorites. If you were ask my dad what the greatest state in the union is, you would have to put a gun to his head before he’d say Illinois (even then, I’m pretty sure he’d take the bullet). To me, that’s okay. Rod Blagovsafkjgawiugasvbitch makes us look bad, but who cares. Illinois is the best state because is has so much history: Lincoln, The Great Fire, the Cubs, Al Capone, Frank Lloyd Wright, ect. ect. Illinoise celebrates the grand history of the state, good and bad. It’s something to marvel when you can a.) keep listener’s attention with songs/stories about a state b.) make those stories feel personal to the listener and c.) create a record that makes modern listeners excited, even when it’s so heavily anchored in classical music. Even it’s more playful moments, Illinoise is beautiful from start to finish. My favorite thing about the core of Sufjan’s songwriting is the humane details in his lyrics. I remember the line “In the morning/through the window shade/When the light pressed up against your shoulder blade/I could see what you were reading” stuck out in my mind. As a songwriter, I tried to recreate it, but Sufjan has a special gift of being aware of the little beauties in life. So the least I could do was to notice the little beauties in his music. The strange time signature and the smooth transitions to common ones. The orchestration, the harmonies, the silly lyrics that don’t seem so silly by songs end. Like I said, he doesn’t hide the shame Illinois has. We’re reminded of John Wayne Gacy and the things he’s done. The strange thing I’ve always felt with this song is that Sufjan seems to be understanding of Gacy. Maybe not the actual things he did, but more so the monster he became. It’s a strange element of the song, and it’s one that haunts you long after the fact.

I have a friend who I never see anymore. We were in music theory together in high school and he showed me Sufjan Stevens. After a few days, I came back to him and sung my praises. I was pretty baffled when he offered me tickets to see Sufjan Stevens...the next day...for free. No time to prepare! I didn’t know the words to many of his songs! People would stare! Oh, the horror! That proved to be meaningless as the next day, my musical life would be greatly altered. One by one, the band came out, all wearing these large nondescript wings. Then to my great shock, an orchestra come out, also with wings. After awhile, one last man came out: Sufjan.

Everyone has a good cry to a sappy song now and again, but never have I ever cried to due instrumental music. Well, Sufjan and his orchestra were so perfect, I cried. Twice. The Seven Swans track, “Sister”, and Illinoise track, “The Predatory Wasp Of Palisades Is Out To Get Us!” Why is this important? Well, it shows the great strength of Sufjan’s music and the great strength of music in general. Whether or not you, dear reader, and I agree on this album or any album on my list, we can agree that music is a powerful thing that gets us through life (amongst a few other essential things).

“Oh, Great Goat, the curse you gave us

Oh, Great Ghost, protect and save us

Oh, Great River, green with envy

Oh, Jane Addams, spirit send thee

Oh Great Illinois”

Other great records.

Honorable Mentions (in alphabetical order):

  • Alkaline Trio - From Here To Infirmary
  • Against Me! - As The Eternal Cowboy
  • The Avett Brothers - Emotionalism
  • Bright Eyes - Cassadaga
  • Built To Spill - You In Reverse
  • Coldplay - X&Y
  • Common - Be
  • Death From Above 1979 - You’re A Woman, I’m A Machine
  • Elvis Costello - Secret, Profane & Sugarcane
  • The Flaming Lips - Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robot
  • Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes
  • Gavin Castleton - Home
  • Modest Mouse - We Were Dead Before The Ship Sank
  • Mos Def - Black on Both Sides
  • NOFX - War on Errorism
  • Outkast - Stankonia
  • The Postal Service - Give Up
  • Radiohead - (Insert whatever album)
  • The Roots - Phrenology
  • Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend

There are a lot of great records on this list. For one reason or another I felt that these records didn’t do enough for me. Except Stankonia, I slightly regret not putting on the list. You may notice Alkaline Trio. You’re probably wondering, since they’re my favorite band, why the didn’t make the list. Well the answer is simple, Alkaline Trio just didn't have a better record than others. They don't really have strong albums, whereas they have strong collections of songs. Other albums worth noting: Fleet Foxes. My good friend Drew brought up how she felt that it was deserving of a higher place. Her argument was that it was just surprising that a record like that and a band like that could become popular. I say, no, its not surprising, just look at Crosby, Stills, and Nash. I guess ill just quickly explain my self on certain things:

  • I’ll defend Coldplay for a hot second. They’re great. I don’t care what you or Chuck Klosterman says. They can’t be this popular with out being ridiculously talented.
  • The Flaming Lips probably should have made it on the list.
  • Everyone should listen to Gavin Castleton
  • Common sucked after Be
  • I only put Radiohead on the honorable mention because Andrew Winslow would have a shit fit if I didn’t. Radiohead is good but not that good.
  • We Were Dead Before The Ship Sank is outrageously better than Good News For People Who Love Bad News.

Okay. Time for number one...