Wednesday, April 29, 2009

New Wilco album title (the blog post)

Wilco's always been a bit quirky with album titles. A.M. is aptly unsubtle; Being There is a nod to the famous novel/film. Summerteeth is a joke (literally); Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is a coded message of nothingness; A Ghost Is Born is paradoxically clever. And even the Sky Blue Sky still strikes me as lazy, I'm sure there's something to it. But Wilco's back, baby! Rivaling REM in interesting takes on the concept of self-titling, Wilco will unleash "Wilco (The Album)" later this summer. The best part? The opener is "Wilco (The Song)" which is damned good, even if the chorus of "Wilco, Wilco, Wilco will love you baby" seems a little overly self-important. And I doubt the "Colbert" part will be included.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Exclusive Wilco Song
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorFirst 100 Days

I'm not gonna lie, I've got a severe case of anticipatory bone. GIMME GIMME GIMME

Friday, April 24, 2009

A look inside the recording of Vampire Weekend's new album..

(int. recording studio; lights flash on, two men enter)

Ezra Koenig: Kin you believe we already have to make another record??

Chris Tomsin: I kneeow! It seems like just yesterday, we dropped Vampire Weekend on the world and we already have to make another!

EK: Wull, I gass we need some songs. The first step is to get a tune.

CT: Oh man, that sounds super HARDuh. I wish I had a tune right now.

EK: If we concentrate rully hard, we'll both get tunes.

CT: OK Ezra! I'm gonna concentrate!

(both close eyes and strain)

EK: Oh....oh you know what? I'm getting a tune.

CT: Really?

EK: Oh yeah, I'm definitely getting a tune right neeeow.

CT: Oh wow, now I'M getting a tune!

EK: My tune is huuuge!

CT: Let's play with your tune!

EK: OK, ehehe.


/Southpark ripoff.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Singer Songwriter cliches: Promo shots

[NOTE: Pictures are the result of typing "Singer Songwriter Promo Shots" into image search. I don't know who they are nor have I listened to their music.]

The Semi-Natural:

I'm here. Found it. The rim of civilization. Note that I'm seated on the ledge of some sort of concrete slab, against a lowered steel-shutter. Were I to open the shutter, you'd see a bustling street scene, rife with motor vehicles, hurried pedestrians, street vendors, and a cacophony of honks, jackhammers, and other various citysounds. But if I was a Planeteer, my ring's power would be JUXTAPOSE since I also am down with the more organic side of things. At my feet lies a sediment of leaves (way dead, natch), indicating the expanse of forest that lies just out of frame...I swear. But right now, it's just me and my guitar--propped awkwardly against the shutter. I'll let it decide which side I wind up on.

The Self-Aware Shetbag:

Every morning, after a routine headdip in my hair gel cauldron, I up and head on down to my local foundry for some busking. Boy, do those workers hate me! I usually take a break at 10 to work the opening shift at PacSun, but then it's back to the steel stairs for some more busking. Hopefully that guy Bruno won't invite me back to his place again, either. When I asked if he had a hot tip for me, I meant about getting a gig!!

The Crumbling Environment Shot Guy

Now I know what you're thinking, and the answer is no, there are not actually two of me. This is what people in the biz call a 'composite photo'. See, the pic on the left was taken out back of the 7/11 on Escondito Drive, during my shift on Wednesday. Thankfully Mr. Hajib was in the back filing or something, so I could snuck out back without anyone noticing. For the other one I just hopped out of my cousin's Prelude and stood in front of some poor person's house cause I thought it looked all run down and shit. The dude who lived there actually came out and yelled at me in Spanish or something. We got outta there hella quick!

The Mullet of Destiny

Evenin', ladies. I had my nephew take this picture with his Google Phone or whatever it is. I didn't care how it looked really, just had one requirement: The Kentucky Waterfall must be flowin' majestic as as a damn eagle. And set against the the wall of my apartment bathroom, I gotta say it looks good as sin. Anyway, I'll be playin' at the Airport Inn bar from 5:30-6:00 PM this Thursday. C'mon down and bring your sisters, too. Plenty ta' go round.

The Standard

Corduroy jacket? Check. Scarf? Check. Thrift store t-shirt? Check. Driver's cap? Check. Holding random item that may or may not contextually relate to my music? Check. Well-maintained stubble? Check. Indifferent but wary countenance? Check and mate.

The Tortured Artiste

Oh, I'm sorry...I suppose you are trying to photograph me. Go ahead then, if you must. Forgive me if I struggle to find the wherewithal to summon my interest. I'd rather be wistful and morose. That is, after all, why I wandered over to this time-worn barn...only after I'd finished my ring-pop, of course (forgive my lips' crimson hue!) But alas, not unlike the hard-candied treat, my time on Earth continues to dwindle, and the breezes will continue to lash this poor barn. So snap away, good sir, far be it from me to impede your artistic endeavors. (gazes off into the distance)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Four Music Snobs

A. Indie Snob

This is a catch-all term regarding any sort of hipster-approved subgenre, whether it be straight up indie pop, electronica, Americana, shoegaze, progrock, etc. They comb record store used racks and torrent sites, and champion certain pop music acts ironically ("I know it's lame to say, but Rhianna is actually pretty rad"). They are fluent in many forms of nonverbal communication, including scoff, sigh, and 12 kinds of eyeroll.

Wears: Slogan T-shirts*, mustaches*, size 0 jeans, short shorts*, black rims
Average cost of Gigs: $22, suffer Ticketmaster fees while shaking head and proclaiming "Fuck those filthy pigs"; $75 or above for Radiohead
Tattoos: Latin phrases; date of birth; ironic imagery; images of nature; usually duotone wrap around forearm or calf.
Professions of Choice: Barrista, record store clerk, bike store clerk
Overheard: "I was talking to Eddie Argos after a gig and we both agreed that Serge Gainsbourg is a dish best served vinyl-y."

*Worn ironically

B. Metal Snob (specifically Doom Metal, Sludge Metal, Death Metal, etc.)

Cousin of indie-snob; listens to nothing but venomous, ear-splitting metal with Satanically distored guitars, machine-gun snare, and grumbled or screeched but always unintelligble lyrics regarding mythically dark subject matter. Bands have name like "And Snakes Will Rain Down" or "Myrthh:(". Songs are only distinguishable to the trained, tinnitus-ridden, guage-stretched ear. Often record store employees. Are often not distinguishable from indie snob aside from increased presence of black in wardrobe, and not to be confused with shithead Hot Topic crowd who think Evanescence is dark.

Wears: Black by and large, jeans, black rims, beard
Average Cost of Gigs: $15; $850 if including roundtrip tickets to Oslo for metal festival
Tattoos: Sleeves of regret
Profession of Choice: Tattoo artist, metallurgist, event staff
Overheard: "Set up the Settlers of Catan board while I throw on Sunn O)))"

3a. Jazz snob

The Jazz snob has little to no insterest in music that isn't a complex tapestry of modal shifts and improvisational meanderings. Generally middle aged, wealthy and often jazz musicians themselves, they scoff at all forms of popular music and lament the dumbing-down of the medium, with regards to their hippin and the hoppin and the bippin and the boppin.

Wears: Turtlenecks, well-kempt stubble, black rims
Average Cost of Gigs Attended: $25, but the outliers are significant ($240 for Wynton Marsalis!)
Tattoos: Treble clef on inner thigh
Professions of Choice: Jazz musician, chairperson, gallery owner
Overheard: "You call that a Gm7#add11?"

3b. Classical snob

Similar to the jazz snob except, on average, a few years older, also have no interest outside of symphonic movements of centuries past. John Williams is not acceptable, either, for he is modernized overwrought swill. In order to garner the classical snob's respect, one's works must have been forged by a quill pen and gently dusted by talcum flurries from a powdered wig.

Wears: Suit, beard, spectacles, designer dress shoes, NPR 5th level donor robe
Average Cost of Gigs: $150 for nosebleeds
Tattoos: "I've no time for unsightly ink blemishes. What do you take me for, some hayseed?"
Professions of Choice: Professor, chemist, NPR on-air personality
Overheard: "The chardonnay is dreadful, but this foie gras is a divine spread."

4. The Ignoramus Pop Music Snob

The guy who knows every song on the radio at any given time. He has synced his quality standard with radio playlists, and chooses to procure no further knowledge of music. He writes off any non-radio band as "weird" or "underground" and assumes that their inability to achieve widespread airplay is a direct result of their inadequacy as a musician. Ironically, his friend is in a band that, according to him, "Is trying to get big." He also lives and dies by the 'top 100' countdowns that VH1 excretes every few months. His 'favorite music' section on Facebook reads "ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING -- MUSIC IS LIFE: Jack Johnson, Nickelback, Nelly, Fallout Boy" and so on.

Wears: Cargo shorts, K-Swiss, spoiler upgrade on Honda Civic
Average Cost of Gigs Attended: $70. The Pop Music Snob rarely attends concerts, except when big-ticket acts are playing massive arenas.
Profession of Choice: Anything menial; probably what the guy next to you does; Amway salesman
Overheard: "Fuck yeah, I know you heard dat, Mason. They're playing Pussycat Dolls in Hollister. Good an excuse as any to snag me some factory fades."

The Association Chart:
Here's how snobs of different classes view one another:

Chart Notes:
The indie and metal snobs feign mutual respect. "Oh, cool," they'll say when informed by the other of his musical inclinations. "That's cool, I'm not too familiar with that stuff but I hear it's pretty rad." All the while, they'll be lamenting the other and the awful, awful music he likes.

Indie snobs feel that it's necessary to appreciate classical and jazz, for they are next year's Class 3 snobs. Metal snobs, on the other hand, will go deaf long before their angst is dulled to the point that jazz seems like a good idea.

Pop snobs, again, don't recognize the other three, nor are they cognizant of the fact that they're the target of much disdain from the other camps. They will die ignorant and none the wiser. And perhaps they'd just as soon have it that way.

No one who writes for this blog falls in any of these categories...surely.....

Monday, April 20, 2009

April 25, 2009: Neko Case w/Crooked Fingers

Most of us here at HSW have been occupied by our actual lives, leaving little time for the virtual.

That being said I have been delayed in posting my concert review of Neko Case and Crooked Fingers.

I arrived in Raleigh a couple hours prior to the show to grab a bite to eat and take in the scenery. Sadly, because of my real life woes I ended up snagging some food and napping in my seat until the show started.

Parking at the Meymandi was fre and easily-accessible. Downtown Raleigh was just like any other Southern state capital, a ghost town after 5pm. For the n00b, it didn't help that the venue Meymandi Concert hall is housed in the arts center/progress energy center, so it was not immediately apparent where I was supposed to go.

Nevertheless, the venue was top notch. Impeccable acoustics in a building adorned with fine art of all genres. Waiting for the show to start was a delight as I stared at the brightly-painted abstracts and sculptures; made even better by the realization that instead of general admission, my seat was actually 3rd row center!

The show started right on time as Crooked Fingers, a three-piece fronted by North Carolina native Eric Bachmann, formerly of Archers of Loaf. According to the Crooked Fingers' bio, they have spent time on both Merge and SaddleCreek Records. The band's latest LP, Forfeit/Fortune was released for Red Pig/Constant Artists, Inc. and distributed exclusively at 20 North American independent record stores, handpicked by Bachmann himself.( The band's live lineup also included Tim Husmann and Miranda Brown who played on Ryan Adams's Q Division Demos.

The Fingers' minimalist acoustic approach lends itself well to intimate venues such as Meymandi. This set reminded me of the time Low opened for Wilco at the Cricket Arena's concert hall. The group layered sounds well, incorporating drums, acoustic guitar, bass and vocals along with sparse electronics by way of keyboard and a couple other gizmos. I can't shake the notion, though, that Bachmann's voice is identical to the Boss, or perhaps Bon Jovi during one of his ballads. Upon listening to some of their material, the live versions are stripped of some of their production and IMO have much more impact on the listener than the pleasantries of nuance (strings, guitar layers) that adorn the album versions. I was more impressed with the varyied timing and odd harmonies of each musician and how they did so much with so little. At one point, percussionist/multi-instrumentalist, Tim Husmann slowed down a bit on his shaker which prompted a look back from the band as he caught back up. I pitied the dude, though. He had a lot going on.

After a brief interlude appeared Neko Case and her current lineup. The band was a troop of very talented musicians including co-vocalist Kelly Hogan (who has sang with The Minus 5). (At this time I was not able to uncover the names of some of the other band members.) Neko performed an even variety from all of her solo albums, including a couple of covers. She played several instruments including a couple of four string guitars. One instrument she DID NOT play: a most beautiful Fender Jazzmaster that went untouched throughout the entire evening. *sigh* such a shame.

Kelly and Neko kept some girly-banter going throughout the evening, at times enamoring but others annoying. Neko had the game locked as she serenaded effortlessly through her songs, then strutted off and then right back on for the encore. The band was equally flawless as they fed off each others' improvisations--making the songs come alive without straying too far from the originally-recorded material.

Although I feel like Neko is guilty of having a "formula" to her songwriting, It's easy to enjoy and relate to dark elements that are expressed throughout her lyrics and the arrangements of her music. At the same time, Neko's voice provides a comforting embrace during all that sadness.

Here are a few videos from the concert to enjoy. Please excuse the poor audio, as professional cameras were not allowed. I had to sneak my phone out.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

On the week that was

As was so aptly called to attention in a recent comment, we've been on a bit of a hiatus over the past two weeks. I for one have been all over the place, literally and figuratively. The lady and I embarked on an east coast road trip last week, which, due to car troubles, promptly turned into an improvised circuit of bus, plane, and taxi rides between cities, airports, metro stations, houses, and wherever else you might imagine. The week was punctuated by the tragic news of my grandfather's passing. He'd been recently hospitalized and was trying in vain to rehabilitate in a hospice over the past month or so, but his condition continued to deteriorate until finally he passed on, early morning of Good Friday.

Although it seems so petty an issue now, my car is still at a Wheaton, MD Ford dealership awaiting retrieval, which won't happen til next weekend. Until I pull into my driveway a week from tomorrow, I'll be a bit tightly wound.

Still, the week wasn't without its high points and, of course, its musical connections. For instance, in New York City, I think I heard "Kids" by MGMT no less than three times in various places:

Seems like a song the NY crowd would glom onto, right? I can't help but be mesmerized by the video's creepy harlequins spliced with the stock dance footage. My research tells me it's not an official video, by the way.

The new Felice Brothers came out last week and I listened to that on our last-second flight home from DC. I've gone through it two or three times and so far I'm quite satisfied. Old-timey chic with flashes of progression that I love to see in a band. Since there's not much on Youtube from the new album, here's "Roll on Arte" from Tonight at the Arizona:

In New York, we sat in my favorite bar, 11th Street, and chatted while some unkown British songwriter played in the background, which was a nice complement to the low-lit atmosphere of the old, wooden pub. We heard a few street musicians as well, most notably a very talented trumpeter on Pennsylvania Avenue in DC playing for some smokers outside a restaurant. He was given the heave-ho by a cop entering the place, but continued his serenade as soon as the officer was out of sight.

Anyway, I'll do my best to throw some updates up this week but a steady influx may not occur until after the car situation is all sorted out. But for now, let's all raise a toast for Pop.