Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Holy Merciful Happiness:
What are you doing June 12?

You better be going to see Sigur Ros. That's right. According to the band's Myspace, they will be playing KC's Uptown Theatre Thursday, July 12.

And I'm a bucket of gleeful goo...

Thanks for the heads up, Miss Mandy. If I can do anything to brighten your Wednesday in return...

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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Random Shit

News flash: The blog has been neglected. Then again, I never pretended to be a good parent. Devotees will probably remember that we went through a lull at this same time last year, and picked up nicely in the summer, and with any luck the same will happen this year. Just bare with us a few more weeks while we finish school, please. Until then, expect the sporadic posts to be light and fluffy, and hopefully wildly entertaining. Unless they're not like today's post, which is very lengthy and boring. Just kidding, or am I?

For today's post, I'm just going to go stream of consciousness on your ass and blog about whatever the fuck sounds good. This blog used to be called Midwest Music and More, after all, so file this under the "More" section if it helps. And yes, I do talk about Dexter.

School sucks. No, not really. There's nothing wrong with getting an education. Well, that's not true either. Okay, third time's a charm. School is time consuming, expensive, and sometimes boring, but on the whole, learning is awesome. I'm especially fond of my Literature of Science Fiction class. Its pretty much what you might expect, we read Science Fiction short stories on our own time and geek out about them in class. I'm really quite fond of the geeking out part, though I should note that we're often not geeking out in the nerdy Sci-Fi way you might expect based on whatever perception you have of a Sci-Fi nerd. (Then again, there are plenty of times where we do geek out just like you might expect too) Example, today we discussed a short story titled "(Learning About) Machine Sex," in which we learn about, you guessed it, machine sex. Sort of. Long story short, this brilliant female computer programmer develops a computer/program for guys to fuck because her own experience in messed up relationships leads her to believe that men aren't looking for love or companionship, just sex, and if they could get it from a computer, they would. Deep down, she hopes she's wrong, because it would validate this incredibly dark, nihilistic view of life that she's developed based on her experiences. As she's developing this technology, she meets a cowboy who tells her that nobody will buy it. He believes in love, something our, uh, protagonist gave up on. He also mentions that this program immoral. This character later reveals that he's gay, which I find to be interesting because the story was published in 1988, and if you thought America was conservative now (its not just a Midwest thing, Kansas isn't the only state to outlaw gay marriage you know), imagine what it was like 20 years ago at the tail end of Reganomics, right before the Bush Sr. took office. I personally think its interesting that in the late 80's the author would make the only redeeming, moral character in the story a gay man. I wish this was something we could have discussed more in detail, but the class is only so long we had to talk about other things, which leads me to...

Sonic Youth is to Science Fiction like bread is to butter. Who knew? I remember reading a couple of years ago that Sister was based on Phillp K. Dick, or his stories, something like that. Apparently the title refers to the fraternal twin sister of Dick's that died shortly after birth and apparently haunted him his entire life. Then, as if on cue, when I saw Sonic Youth a few weeks after learning of this, Thurston Moore spent the first few minutes of their concert in Lawrence talking about films based on Dick novels, and had to remind himself that he was there to play a show, not geek out on Sci-Fi talk.

Well, today we also discussed a short story titled "Burning Chrome" by William Gibson, author of the short story-turned movie "Johnny Mnemonic" and considered by many as the author that shaped the Science Fiction sub-genre called Cyberpunk (think the Matrix, but without a happy ending). Somehow, other classmates, who are basically bona fide Science Fiction scholars, started talking about his other works. Neuromancer obviously came up (I haven't even read the book and I can already tell you its considered a classic), which led to a mention of the Sprawl trilogy. Though my ears perked immediately, I figured it must surely be a coincidence. After all, if Sister truly is all about Phillip K. Dick and/or his writings, why then write yet another song based on a Sci-Fi classic for their next album. Wouldn't they have been bored of songs about Sci-Fi authors by then? I let it go, until a few minutes later when a student brought up his novel Pattern Recognition. You've gotta be fucking kidding me, I thought to myself. After getting home, I hopped on the 'net to check out this Gibson character and see what he's all about. I was unable to find anything to directly link the song "The Sprawl" with Gibson's trilogy, so I checked out Pattern Recognition. As Wikipedia describes it: The novel's central theme involves the examination of the human desire to detect patterns or meaning and the risks of finding patterns in meaningless data. Hmmm, not seeing a connection here. But wait, there's more. Other themes include methods of interpretation of history, cultural familiarity with brand names, and tensions between art and commercialization. Jackpot. Sonic Youth has always expressed interest in the tensions between art and commercialization, not to mention a fascination with pop culture in general. How else do you explain "Expressway to Yr Skull" (which is alternately titled "Madonna, Sean, and Me"), the White(y) Album, and even "Kim Gordon and the Arthur Doyle Handcream" (which comes from the same album as the song "Pattern Recognition," Sonic Nurse)?

But then I remembered how I once stumbled across a book called Dude Ranch Nurse. Either Sonic Youth gets all of their song ideas from books, including cheesy western romances, or I'm reading way too much into this Sonic Youth/Sci-Fi thing.

Moving on to something completely different. My girlfriend, Jenna (you may remember her, she's posted a few times under the clever pseudonym "Girlfriend"), and I recently bought a new high-definition screen. Though we think or ourselves as intelligent, productive people, we long ago came to terms with the fact that we are, sadly, entertained by pretty moving pictures. The addition of this new television (notice how I used the word television...a nod to all my fellow Mr. Show fans), which makes these pretty moving pictures even prettier, has basically turned us into zombies. But because I'm still a snob and refuse to give in completely to the fact that I actually enjoy some of the crap network television has to offer (thank God we don't have cable, otherwise I suspect this would no longer be a music blog), I tend to find myself critically analyzing the shows I find myself inexplicably glued to. Take House for example. Its less of a soap-opera than ER and Grey's Anatomy, but its certainly more predictable. Every single show someone has a mysterious ailment. House makes his staff test for it. While they do this, he bothers people. His underlings think they have an answer, and as they're either telling the patient, or about to, the patient codes. More tests, more ideas as to what the problem is, House acts like a jerk some more, they determine what the problem is, but at the last minute another mysterious symptom to kicks in, ruling out every possibility they've come up with. House continues to act like a jerk, has an epiphany, solves the problem, treats people like crap, and gives the patient a new lease on life. This has been going on for FOUR FUCKING SEASONS (well, only technically, considering the writer's strike and all), yet its still wildly popular, and I can't help but watch it. Its shameful, I know, though not as shameful as watching CSI: Miami (An Irish guy named Horatio??? I want what you're smoking!), though sadly I've been known to do that once or twice too.

I mention all this because I recently found myself falling for this ridiculous show called Dexter. With the writers strike crippling the networks and making viewers impatient, CBS actually did something smart: they brought in a Showtime series, Dexter, to fill in their Sunday evening gap. Though the series debuted a few years ago, thus not making it any newer than anything else they were showing, the fact that it was originally from a premium cable channel meant that it would be new to the average person. Yes, some dialog had to be cleaned up, and probably some other things too (violence, sex?), but its not like there aren't people watching edited versions of The Sopranos or Six Feet Under (Michael C. Hall's previous Showtime gig) on television, so this experiment was a good idea.

At first, I found myself completely turned off by the premise. Before the show had even aired, CBS previews made it look like CSI: Miami for people who love really bad plot twists. (Spoiler Alert) Imagine the following: "Coming to CBS this Spring, a new series about a serial killer chasing cop with a secret: He's also a serial killer. Dexter is just as likely to put these criminals behind bars as he is six feet under, usually in several pieces." Sounds like the worst fucking show ever, doesn't it.

Well, truth be told, its not. Don't get me wrong, its hardly mind blowing, most of the actors are terrible, most of the characters are bad archetypes from other recent crime dramas (CSI, The Shield), and the plot twist's are fairly easy to spot a mile away (Spoiler Alert: I called that whole Ice-Truck killer is Dexter's brother thing, just ask Jenna). But regardless of these flaws the show is certainly more entertaining than you might expect, mainly because you find yourself liking Dexter, the character, though eventually I suspect this leads into liking Dexter, the show. You see, part of the reason is that, as a viewer, you're inside Dexter's head, and privy to all sorts of things that the other supporting characters, including his sister and girlfriend, are not. After a while, you see things his way. You want him to have sex with his girlfriend, but understand why he doesn't. You want him to open up to his sister, but understand why he can't. Most of all, you're rooting for him to kill someone. That sounds sadistic, I know, but he's just taking out the trash, really. Remember, he's a serial killer that kills serial killers, or something like that. Anyhow, the show is so addictive, Jenna and I skipped ahead of the CBS broadcast and watched the rest of the season on our computer (thanks Netflix!). The last episode was worth it. And all that blood looks great in high-def.

If you made it this far, I applaud you. Here's something about music so you don't feel cheated. The new Wolf Parade leaked, but all I want to listen to is the new Stereolab song that Pitchfork premiered. It sounds just like you probably expect, but there's nothing wrong with that. Their new album, Chemical Chords, is out 08/19/08 in the U.S. from Duophonic UHF Disks/4AD. I, for one, cannot wait!

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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

MBV Announces First U.S. Show in 16 Years; I'm Scrounging for $225

Seriously, just when I was convinced all those MBV reunion stories were mere myth, now the band has announced it will play a boutique festival organized by ATP. I'm all in a tizzy. The NY festival is scheduled for Sept. 19-21. The rest of the lineup (there's more?) features Built to Spill, Low, Tortoise, Mogwai, your mom (just kidding), and many others.

But, did I mention again that it's in New York, and that tickets are $225 PLUS FEES?


A priceless concert just got a whole lot, well, pricier.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

What Are You Listening To?

No, I'm not dead, just school work! But seriously, I haven't forgotten about you, dear readers, and I haven't stopped listening to music either. Show me yours and I'll show you mine...

Fuck it, I'll show you mine regardless. (Please note that, yet again, Nicole and I had similar ideas for posts, I swear I'm not aping her previous post.)

Bernard "Pretty" Purdie - Soul is...Pretty Purdie

Chances are you know a Pretty Purdie song, even if you aren't aware of it. You know that fucking insane drum break in the Beck song "Devil's Haircut?" That's a Pretty Purdie song, titled "Soul Drums." In fact, there are several Pretty Purdie samples throughout Odelay, the Dust Brothers must have been big fans, and for good reason, the man is a fucking beast on the drums. While I've probably been listening to more of Soul Drums, the album, I can't escape this fantastic song from Soul is... called "Song For Aretha" (which was also briefly used in a Beck song, "Hotwax" to be exact). The song builds with Purdie's insane drumming, but just when you think you've reached the climax the fucking string section kicks in. I challenge you to listen to this song and not fall in love. On a side note, I can totally hear some Broken Social Scene in this song. I know its a bit of a stretch, but the way it's constructed, the guitar tone, the epic strings, the emergence of the horns, and the sexy female backup singers. I get it now, Broken Social Scene are what you get when you mix Sonic Youth with soul music. That's something I can dig.

Sonic Youth - Sister

Moving on from a song about "soul sister number one" to an album titled Sister. You should already know by now that Sonic Youth is about the only band that can rival Radiohead for the coveted title of Ryan's Favorite Band, so it shouldn't surprise you to see this album on here one bit. Why Sister over Daydream Nation or Murray Street? Why not? Or better yet, listen to "Tuff Gnarl" and you tell me.

David Bowie - The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars

On a recent road trip to catch my favorite indie chanteuse, I threw in the standard Bowie rock record, Ziggy Stardust. It had bout four years since I last listened to it all the way through, four years too many. I know that had I waited another year I could make a delicious pun about it being five years, but I just couldn't make myself wait any longer. I suppose I could have lied to you and said it was five years. Actually, is it too late? Because I really want to say it had been fiiiiiiiiiiiiive years since I listened to Ziggy Stardust. Fiiiiiive years! Ha, I'm on a roll. I'm also drunk, can you tell?

I know, this is definitely the obvious Bowie choice, but fuck, with an album this good, who cares? Here's a song I almost completely forgot about, I'll never make that mistake again.

Spoon - Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga

I've been saying Spoon is quickly becoming one of my favorite bands since they released Gimme Fiction back in '05, and that was one of their weaker albums. Can you imagine what I'm saying now that they've got the excellent Ga x5 under their belt? You don't have to, I'll just come right out with it: Spoon is one of my favorite bands. Even though I just saw them in concert a few weeks ago, I'm actually looking forward to this Sunday's show even more. How is that possible? They're a great band, that's how.

The Beatles - The Beatles (aka the White Album)

Oh, that's not obvious enough Ryan. But seriously, how about The Fucking Beatles? Are you gonna argue?

Yes, The Beatles influenced everyone, and it keeps going too. Just listen to "Long, Long, Long" and tell me you don't hear Animal Collective or Grizzly Bear, with maybe a little Doug Marsch in the vocals. I dare you.

While you're at it, listen to "Martha My Dear." You'll be humming it for weeks.

While you're here, you may as well watch this funny homage to The Beatles. They really are the best band.

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I Am Old Music and You Can Too!*

*Sorry, Stephen Colbert, for ripping off the oh-so-clever name of your oh-so-clever book.

As someone constantly trying to keep her pulse on the latest and greatest music, I often find myself overwhelmed and, ever increasingly, disappointed by the latest offerings. Sure, you've got Plants and Animals and The Dodos to keep the flora/fauna fresh. Still, lately I've been skipping many of the newer releases in favor of thumbing through rock's back-catalog.

I figured I'd touch on some of my favorite recent discoveries and offer you all a sample. Dig in!

Chronological order seems to make the most sense, right?

Nico - Chelsea Girl (1967)

If you're a fan of Wes Anderson's Royal Tenenbaums, then you're undoubtedly familiar with Nico's take on Jackson Browne's "These Days." According to WikiLegend, Anderson was so taken by the song that he envisioned the scene where Gwyneth Paltrow steps off the train in slow motion before he started writing the screenplay. I was also quite taken by this song, and wasn't disappointed by the album's other lushly produced tracks. While this is definitely more of a "winter album," it's definitely worth a look, particularly if you're a fan of Nick Drake's Five Leaves Left.

David Bowie - Hunky Dory (1971)

Thank you, SonicRyan, for turning me onto this album. We all know the opener "Changes," but don't be fooled into thinking this is the album's greatest offering. Here Bowie pays tribute to everyone from Bob Dylan to Andy Warhol while creating his own masterpiece. "Life on Mars" = priceless. "Queen Bitch" (another track to figure on a Wes Anderson soundtrack) = a joyous rock romp. Listen to "The Bewlay Brothers" and marvel.

Joy Division - Unknown Pleasures (1979)

I remember first falling in love with Interpol and hearing the endless analogies made between Paul Banks' and Ian Curtis' voices. I gave Joy Division a go at the time, thinking anyone who influenced Turn on the Bright Lights had to be worth a listen. Well, as seems to happen far too often to me, I didn't get it on first listen. Now, ever since the junior junk that was Our Love to Admire, I've given Joy Division another go. Let me just say that now I can clearly see Banks didn't just rip off Curtis' vocal stylings, he ripped the very heart out of them.

Check out the cover, the last one hundred transmissions from a dying star. Haunting. Perfect.

Galaxie 500 - On Fire (1989)

After falling for Beach House I kept seeing all of these comparisons to Galaxie 500. Then I read a P4k column dedicated to the band that left me scrambling to hear them, and this exquisite song known as "Snowstorm." Finding this album led me to somewhat of a crisis in the past few months, as I couldn't understand how this album had just been sitting there all along, waiting for me to discover it. I guess Galaxie 500 is to blame for all this back-pedaling, back-cataloging... Just listen to the song. Please.

The last two wouldn't qualify as "old" -- both were released within the past decade -- though they would qualify as albums/bands I missed out on at the time.

Mercury Rev - Deserter's Songs (1999)

Turn on Deserter's Songs, and you'll swear for a moment that you're hearing The Flaming Lips' The Soft Bulletin. Coincidentally -- or perhaps not -- both albums have the same producer and guitarist John Donahue. But if you're a die-hard SB fan like I am, then your stomach just might flip when you discover that Mercury Rev's take on the SB-sound came first. While The Soft Bulletin is undoubtedly the superior achievement, Deserter's Songs is an incredible album in its own right. If you crave even more experimental fare, check out the band's 1993 album Boces. It doesn't even sound like the same band...

Unwound - Leaves Turn Inside You (2001)

Recently I was reading a humor article, "How To Tell If You're a Hipster." One of the criteria was if you've ever said Blonde Redhead was "the poor man's Unwound." As a BR fan, my interest was piqued at the thought that anyone -- hipster or not -- would say this. I immediately downloaded this 74-minute, double-disc affair that is apparently considered the band's finest work. (As one fan stated, it killed post-post-punk, "with kindness.") I've been in love ever since.

Well, there you have my latest finds. Perhaps I'll continue this feature as I dredge up more gems. Until next time...

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

It's April 15...

Here's hoping you weren't up until the wee hours, like myself, trying to make good with the gov'ment.

Has anyone seen the UK's Black Books? There's a scene where the perpetually drunken/irate Dylan Moran is attempting to do his taxes, and to avoid them he starts matching socks, then later ends up inviting Mormons into his house to discuss religion, the afterlife -- anything but his taxes. Let's just say after the past two days, I can relate.

An ode to the Taxman, may he rotteth in hell.

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Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Beach House/Papercuts Videos

It's taken me some time to post these. Mainly because despite having Alex Scally's permission to record Beach House's 3/24 show in Omaha (provided I abstained from any "cock shots"), my little Sony camcorder was no match for the band's impressive bass and speaker combo. That said, once you get over the crappy sounding bass, the recordings ain't half bad. (And the Papercuts videos are much less bass-heavy to begin with. Check out the first video, featuring Victoria Legrand's backup vocals, and Alex on organ.)

Unfortunately I didn't get footage of BH performing "Gila," during which problems with the equipment prompted Victoria to replace "Gil-a-a-a-a-a" with "Wh-at the fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck." (Alex said afterwards that unexpected complications like these aren't all bad -- they make certain performances "more unique-r." Oh, how I adore grammar quips.)

After the show I thanked the bands and told them to head over to Lawrence next time. They said they would, so here's hoping that if you missed the chance to see them in Omaha or elsewhere, you can catch them a little closer to home.

In case you were wondering, I'm still absolutely devoted to Devotion.

Papercuts (Featuring BH):


"Apple Orchard":

"Wedding Bell":

"Holy Dances":

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Tuesday, April 8, 2008

We Are The Champions

I'm struggling to find a musical connection here, a justification for writing this post. Ryan originally called this blog Midwest Music and More... so I suppose this would fall under the category of More.

In honor of KU's fifth national championship ever -- precisely 20 years after their last -- I thought I'd make a playlist commemorating the occasion. I considered some funny choices, in terms of titles... Atlas Sound's "Scraping Past"... Blonde Redhead's "Top Ranking"... but really this is the perfect song to describe the deathblow that was Mario Chalmers' crucial three-pointer, the intensity I feel inside today -- and the title probably sums up how all those Memphis fans are feeling.

Congratulations, Jayhawks!

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Friday, April 4, 2008

Concert Announcement: Spoon (Again!)

If you were in that impossible line of free passholders wrapped round the side of the Uptown Wednesday night (did they all make it in??), you'll be pleased to know Spoon is returning to the KC/Lawrence area with a 4/20 show at Liberty Hall.

Tickets $22 (when purchased at L.H. window). Show at 7 p.m. And guys, after that show Wednesday night, trust me, you'll want to be there. Who knew "The Ghost of You Lingers" would kick that much ass live?

Plus, it's 4/20... As Mr. Daniel would say, "You got a new bag of pot... that's the way to my heart."

P.S. Check out my oh-so-shitty camera pic from the 4/2 show. Take that, bastard who made me take my camera to the car!

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Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Wayback Whensday:
Joy Division's "Ceremony"

As the final song written and recorded by Joy Division's Ian Curtis, "Ceremony" carries a gloominess and portent that contrasts the song's decidedly upbeat tone (for a JD song, that is). A bit of history for the uninitiated... Two recordings exist of Curtis' swan song. The first is a rehearsal recording and can be found on the Heart and Soul compilation. The second appears on the compilation album Still and was recorded during the band's final concert at Birmingham University -- sixteen days before Curtis' suicide. He was 23.

After Curtis' death, as with so many bands abandoned by a gifted, ill-fated leader, Joy Division pressed on. They renamed themselves as New Order and rerecorded "Ceremony" twice (first with new vocalist Bernard Sumner, and later after guitarist Gillian Gilbert joined the group). As you can tell from Curtis' original recordings (after the jump), the lyrics are nearly inaudible, and Sumner had to put the rehearsal version through a graphic equalizer to determine what they were.

As a tribute to this storied, truly incredible song, I'm posting as many versions as I can get my hands on, including covers by Galaxie 500, Xiu Xiu, and -- awwww -- Radiohead.

Please be patient, as Imeem is sometimes slow loading... The first track is the rehearsal; the second is the live recording (it starts a few seconds into the song, but is the full version.)

Radiohead performing "Ceremony" on their Radiohead TV webcast, Nov. 9, 2007.

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Happy Late April Fools...

I suppose we should have tried to convince you that Neutral Milk Hotel was reforming or something. But I just wasn't up to breaking any hearts.

Besides, didn't P4K already do that?

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