October 31, 2008
Beirut main-man Zach Condon took a step back (or perhaps forward) to record a double disc, split-project EP, due out February 17 on Condon’s own label, Pompeii Records. The first disc, entitled March of the Zapotec, features six new Beirut songs and was partly recorded in Mexico (are Condon and Conor Oberst starting a new geographical-recording trend?); the second disc, Holland, comes from Realpeople, the name of Condon’s pre-Beirut project, and features five solo-Condon tracks.
One can’t help but wonder just what the difference is between Beirut and solo Zach Condon, and similarly Bright Eyes and solo Conor Oberst. Perhaps the two will head south of the border to record something altogether new…
2008 | E/M Ventures
Sadly, Metallica’s last release, St. Anger, sounded more like it was influenced by the bands that they themselves influenced. But with their latest release, Death Magnetic, Metallica returns to the songwriting formula that made them so progressive in the 80’s, and which, for better or for worse, paved the way for future “metal bands.” But returning to form has its pros and cons.
If the sole purpose of the album was merely “to rock” I could certainly give it an “A,” but getting down to the musical and lyrical elements of each song, four are worth mentioning, two have their moments, and the other four are so mediocre that even producer Rick Rubin couldn’t save them. One major complaint I have is that the best moments musically on Death Magnetic sound ripped off from previous albums. There’s too much, “Hey that’s cool but wait, isn’t that a riff from ‘Master of Puppets’?” Second, Lars Ulrich’s drumming sounds particularly offbeat on more than one song, most noticeably on “That Was Just Your Life,” which is unfortunate because it’s the first on the record, and also one of the better tracks.
More on Record Review: Death Magnetic
October 30, 2008
When you think of Seattle you very well might think of Starbucks and Nirvana. In the vein of being remembered for the latter, Washington’s cultural-capital is taking their musical community to a new level, initiating Seattle City of Music, an association aiming to stimulate music-related arts and business development.
Planned over the course of a year by groups including record labels, record stores, schools, businesses, recording studios, radio stations, venues, and festivals, SCoM will foster musical education programs, offer additional professional opportunities and improved health care for musicians, support the growth of music businesses and create new jobs, and help keep venues and festivals running smoothly.
SCoM is expected to launch in 2020.
“This Land Is Your Land”
The Asch Recordings Vol. 1
1997 | Smithsonian Folkways
As economists sweat (and fail) to stabilize the financial sector, I more than ever wish someone had informed W. a long time ago that the Magic 8 Ball was not designed for governance. As the term “shore up” reverberates, a dire animosity has been burgeoning shore to shore. It’s Their Fault in all those jobless Red states that my Blue state has been tanking, that we are involved in an illegitimate war, that we do not have guaranteed health care, that our environment is in a shambles, that I have to worry about my reproductive freedoms, that so many minority groups still face major discrimination, I think. Yet, even as I denounce, a certain persistent, if admittedly surly, humanist tendency has been tugging at the increasingly threadbare sleeve of my empathy. Ultimately, it never lessens anyone’s collective suffering to wish for others to suffer more. Perhaps this explains why, even though in accordance with this particular global crisis I could lamentingly review “Brother, Can You Spare A Dime?,” I have been ruminating over another American classic of antiquated timeliness, the beloved anthem of earnestly screeching kindergarteners across the country: “This Land Is Your Land.”
More on Song Review: This Land is Your Land
October 29, 2008
Asthmatic Kitty Records released Habitat yesterday, a two-disc compilation that will benefit Habitat for Humanity. The 29 songs – spanning the range of what can be called electronic music, and dealing with the matter of architectural space in some way or another – make up the collection that Asthmatic Kitty directors Lowell Brams, Sufjan Stevens, and Michael Kaufmann have all wanted to work on for a long time. Stevens is among the musicians on the benefit, playing as Tidal River, a trio made up of himself, colleague Brams, and the National’s Bryce Dessner. The album’s artwork features photographs by architect and photographer Craig McCormick, with a layout by DM Stith. CDs are available exclusively through the Asthmatic Kitty website, with a digital release set for November 18.
Traditional of Björk’s trip-hop, her recently released single “Náttúra,” Icelandic for nature, was composed specific for a cause – to raise awareness in rally and protest for the ecological issues of Iceland. With an energy crisis and a massive corporate presence closer than the horizon, they face many problems America is in the thick of.
“Náttúra,” released by One Little Indian, is a simple, yet effective, composition of drum, bass, and vocals that encompasses beats Björk began her solo career with in the early 1990s. Tribal rhythms and significant lyrics teach to be humbled by nature and to respect your surroundings. In “Náttúra” Björk is joined on vocals by Thom Yorke of Radiohead.
More on Advocating for Iceland With a Bit of Electronica
October 28, 2008
1990 | Twin/Tone
I don’t really know if Robyn Hitchcock is an undiscovered treasure, of if I’ve been living under a rock for decades. Surely, chances are the average listener is at least peripherally familiar with a fraction of his catalog – countless bands have taken a pass at “I Wanna Destroy You,” the one truly sterling moment Hitchcock’s first band, The Soft Boys, produced. Their lone album, Underwater Moonlight, hinted at Hitchcock’s promise as a songwriter, but never quite coagulated. No, it’s the later, less celebrated stuff that really knocks it out of the park.
More on Record Review: Eye
October 27, 2008
Everyone’s favorite saviors of rock turned scapegoats of an epidemic cultural regurgitation have been absent since the release of First Impressions of Earth in 2006, but only in group form. Every member of the Strokes but lead guitarist Nick Valensi, who was the first to request time off after he and his wife had twins two years ago, has invested themselves in collaborative side-projects. In the case of singer Julian Casablancas, this has been the opening of a Korean barbecue restaurant in Hollywood. Given the cloud of backlash that has hovered over the band since the post-Is This It let down, Casablancas may have made the surest bet against biased reception by presenting us not with another record of songs that are doomed to be labeled nostalgic, but with steaming platters of thick sliced pork belly.
More on The Strokes: Where Are They Now?