October 31, 2009
THIS WEEK IN HIP HOP
Despite what many people think, hip-hop has as many sub-genres as rock or jazz. On top of the geographical distinctions that are found in rap from the West Coast, East Coast, South, Midwest, and internationally, there is also Gangsta Rap, Backpack rap, Popular Rap, True School Rap, Hardcore Rap, and the topic of today’s conversation, Horrorcore Rap.
At one time this genre was limited to fringe groups who had very little respect from the rest of the Hip-Hop world, such as The Insane Clown Posse and Twiztid. Yet, in recent years Tech N9ne has risen through hip-hop’s ranks to be one of today’s most successful independent rap artist. Like many of the world’s best musicians, his music refuses to be classified in just one genre. He has a better flow than practically any esoteric backpack rapper to have lived, has recorded songs with the top names in Gangsta Rap such as 2pac, Scarface, Ice Cube, E-40, and his own Strange Music Crew consisting of Big Scoob, Kutt Calhoun, Skatterman & Snug Brim, and Krizz Kaliko. Yet at the same time he has strong roots in Horrorcore. For example, he used to perform shows while wearing a priest’s outfit, with spiked bright red hair and a white cross painted on his forehead. Combine this with songs such as “Trapped in a Psycho’s Body,” “Tormented,” “Real Killer,” and albums called Anghellic, Misery Loves Kompany, and Killer, and it is clear that he is one of the few people who does not have to do anything out of the ordinary to scare the status quo on Halloween.
More on Halloween + Quality Rap = Tech N9ne
Welcome again to another edition of Brook Pridemore’s The Nineties-ist. This edition discusses 1990, how Milli Vanilli symbolizes our desire for authenticity, Mother Love Bone’s transformation into Pearl Jam, and links to a video of Paula Abdul as a Laker Girl. For earlier installments, go here.
By about 2002, it no longer seemed weird that most current pop music icons didn’t play their own instruments or write their own songs. There were a few golden years in the mid-90s (this is the real meat we’re going to get to in a couple weeks), in which it was cool for popular groups, to paraphrase Mama Cass, to make their OWN kind of music. You didn’t know anything about Pavement’s manager because there WAS no Malcolm McLaren behind Pavement. For those of us coming into our own in the mid-90s, there was a powerful lesson to be learned: you could speak or sing with your own voice, and people would hear it. When I was starting my first band in 1995, it was a sign of immaturity to include covers in your set – even a fifteen-year-old kid who’d been at it less than a year should have his own songs.
That ideology was nowhere to be found in 1990. Indeed, paralleling the guitar-god, fantasy lifestyle inherent in 80s metal, the 80s pop singer was not known for writing his or her own words. For example, Whitney Houston’s (in my opinion) greatest contribution to popular culture was her version of Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You.” The transitional steps between Paula the Laker Girl, to Paula Abdul the cartoon-duetting-pop-tart, to Paula Abdul the voice of reason on American Idol are not giant leaps. It was only a matter of time, then, until the “make your own noise” goodwill wore off and Lou Pearlman assumed his stranglehold on pop culture in the late 90s, with his string of largely interchangeable boy bands.
But what about a group that was so manufactured that the faces on the album cover weren’t even the voices you heard on the record? Fab Morvan and Rob Pilatus, two German nightclub dancers, were discovered by impresario Frank Farian one night in 1988. Farian had already conceptualized a dance group called Milli Vanilli, going far enough to record an entire album worth of vocals called All or Nothing. Feeling that the singers he’d picked for the album lacked a marketable image, Farian hired Morvan and Pilatus to pose as the frontmen for Milli Vanilli. It was Morvan and Pilatus’ images that adorned the cover of All or Nothing (and it’s American counterpart, the six-times platinum Girl You Know It’s True), with no mention made of the real voices behind the record.
More on #7: 1990
Watch Alicia Keys and Jay Z Play “Empire State of Mind” at the World Series; The Blueprint 3 Sucked and I Hate the Yankees – This Performance Manages to Negate Everything; Conclude: “Man, New York Rules” [Spin]
Former Harlem Shake (Not an Ice Cream Based Treat) Todd Goldstein Releases His First LP as ARMS Kids Aflame Stateside TODAY (Stream “Tiger Tamer” Here); Meanwhile, I Shamelessly Self Promote Our Website by Linking You to Our Coverage of ARMS at CMJ [Jezebel Music]
The Books Book (Heh?!) First Tour in a While; Somehow Manage to Dodge L.A., New York, and Chicago (Possibly Due to Fear of Urban Heckling? Just a Thought); Much Anticipated New Album Due Out “Early Next Year” [Pitchfork]
Download New Track From Brooklyn Psych-rockers Yeasayer, “Ambling Alp” (Does the Overproduction Present on this Single Secure That Yeasayer is Releasing 2010’s Veckatimest? Yes.) Odd Blood Released Early 2010 [Brooklyn Vegan]
Method Man, Ghostface Killah, and Raekwon Will Release an Album Together December 22; Release C.S.I. Like Teaser Trailer (Hopefully That Means Album Will Be Ridden With Murder, Poorly Rendered CGI) [Prefix]
Massively Overrated Band/Possible Co-Originators of What We Now Call “Indie” Spoon Formally Announces New Record, Transference, Set To Release January 26; Expect it to be Innocuous, Bland, Immensely Popular, and Contain Slightly Veiled References to Weed [Pitchfork]
compiled by Max Sebela
IN THE NEWS
Hopefully this won’t blow too many minds, but Google is trying to take over the world. Behind its colorful logo and cutesy design are the minds of megalomaniacs: taking pictures of our homes, tracking our behavior, and finding out our pet’s names. But, hell, at least they are taking over our lives with quality, not with shady imperialist business practices (Windows) or trendy catering marketing campaigns (Apple). By 2014, everyone is going to love their Google Brains © and finally start understanding what Finnegan’s Wake is about. However, right now, few people are going to care about Google’s next attempt at life invasion: Google Music.
The guys at Google are pretty creative people and music is a large part of their lives, so as they sat around trying to figure out Google Sex while listening to Beethoven, Bach, Mozart, and the Stooges, it must have occurred to them that there is a large amount of financial potential in controlling how people find music. What they decided to do was make some partnerships with already existing Internet music streamers/retailers (such as iLike, Lala, Pandora, Rhapsody etc.) and made it so that when you search a band, song, or album name you will be greeted immediately with song samples (some of which include entire songs), band sites, and Wikipedia articles – nice!
More on Google Music
19 Year Old Canadian Singer-Songwriter Taylor Mitchell Mauled by Coyotes at a National Park in Nova Scotia [Brooklyn Vegan]
Watch Video For New No Age, “Losing Feeling;” Contains a Surprising Amount of Motion For Being Shot From the Perspective of An Inanimate Mouse Toy (But Seriously Guys, Mouse Toys Don’t Move) [Gorilla vs. Bear]
As If Social Networking Hasn’t Begun to Simulate Enough of Your Former Life, Facebook Takes Away Foo Fighters (Foo Fighters Are Playing A Gig on Facebook…They Haven’t Been Absorbed Into Mark Zuckerberg’s Web Infrastructure) [NME]
Happy Birthday, Darling, We Got You Exactly What You Wanted: A Cartoonish Cake Recreation of Lil Wayne’s Skull…Yes, Honey, It Is Purple Drank Flavored. Yep, Daughter of Mine, It Scares Me Too [Idolator]
Goth-Brits The xx Cancel a Bunch of Dates on Their Tour; Say They are “Exhausted” After CMJ (City of Dreams, Make It Here, Make It Anywhere, You Got The Heart, You’ll Get Your Name In Lights, Other Vaudevillian Expressions) [Pitchfork]
Peter Gabriel Covers Radiohead, Magnetic Fields, Bon Iver, and Lou Reed on New Album, Scratch My Back; Released Spring 2010 – It Remains to be Seen Whether Peter Gabriel Will Be the First to Experience “The Vampire Weekend Effect” [NME]
compiled by Max Sebela
JezebelMusic.com @ Pianos
October 23, 2009 | Terrible Records CMJ Showcase
Brooklyn band Arms opened Saturday night’s Terrible Records CMJ Showcase with a breezy, blissed-out pop set, their casual tone clashing distinctly with frontman Todd Goldstein’s jagged movements and nervous between-song banter. Though clearly uncomfortable under the spotlight, his guitar playing was effortless; unfortunately, like the rest of the set, it was also somewhat passionless. The band seemed to be in a hurry to finish, neglecting to put emotion into the music – there was a lukewarm smiliness that persisted even through a song that was, according to Goldstein, “about the end of everything,” and while the lyrics were crisp and audible on the venue’s excellent sound system, they were delivered in a nasal monotone. The music was pleasant enough – barring an irritating excess of ooohs and aaahs in the backing vocals, sung in stock harmonies that wobbled off-tune occasionally to turn the dreamy pop into the stuff of nightmare – but quite bland, and easily forgettable.
The next set was all too brief. Toronto act Little Girls wasted no time in creating a stormy atmosphere, sending whorls of dark noise over ominously simple minor chord progressions that teetered on the edge of control. Frontman Josh McIntyre’s vocals wove skillfully in and out of the noise, shouting and singing with equal effect. The thrashing guitars piling up over the main chords threatened to descend into total anarchy at any moment but never did, drummer Anthony Gerace’s speedy yet metronomic percussion keeping them in line. Even when McIntyre started flailing around the stage, savaging the keyboard and then jumping into the audience, no one missed a beat, merely speeding up to match his convulsive dancing. The legendarily-jaded CMJ audience was surprised, to say the least, when this energetic tornado with his weird brillo-pad haircut landed in their midst, and he helicoptered around shouting his way through the last song all too briefly before crashing to an end and taking the set with him.
JezebelMusic.com @ Santos Party House
October 20, 2009 | Panache Booking & New York Night Train CMJ Showcase
As someone who often judges music by her backbone, I’d like to take my hat off (yes, it’s a little fedora with a press card in the band) to Panache Booking and New York Night Train: both have a knack for putting on shows that get the crowd to really move. That being said, I was moving more than I’d expected at their two-floor showcase at Santos Party House, because the CMJ-tight scheduling meant that whenever a set ended upstairs, we could conceivably run downstairs just in time for that set to start, then scramble back upstairs to repeat the process – for a dozen bands, whew! My feet were pretty sore by the end of the night, and after a few hours of drawing, our sketch artist Hazel Santino had to start taking breaks to stretch those priceless thenar muscles of hers. But here it is, finally, a quick-and-dirty rundown of the ups, downs, hits, misses and highlights of the Panache Booking/New York Night Train CMJ Showcase of 2009.
In case you didn’t go to any CMJ shows this year: Surfer Blood is the new hot shit. If you did go to CMJ then you probably saw Surfer Blood: they played like a billion (or ten or twelve) times last week. They’re a surf band, but don’t think Dick Dale; think heavily-reverbed indie rock songs about the beach. I understand the appeal of Surfer Blood, and I think they should score a teenage summertime movie (maybe with The Drums?) and I’ll go see it simply for the tunes. That said, though they played cleanly and with friendly exuberance, Surfer Blood didn’t get me pulling my skirt over my head or anything. Sorry. I couldn’t hear the danger and chaos that’s been ascribed to their music by critics. Had it been there, maybe the set would’ve been tugged into a tenser, more interesting place.
If, as a child, I’d been aware of the possibility, I think I would’ve wanted to grow up to be in a band like Dinowalrus. Maybe it’s the Star Wars laser sounds, or the constant instrument trading, or lead singer Pete’s yeti growls and propensity for balancing on one leg. Hell, maybe it was the awesome screaming eagle t-shirt he was wearing that particular Tuesday night at Santos. Wherever it stems from, there’s definitely a child-like playfulness beneath all the noise of a Dinowalrus show. “This song’s kinda baggy,” Pete exclaimed at one point, “so put on your bucket hat like you’re going to Manchester!” I like the way Dinowalrus works their noise into a song, letting it gurgle or stew at the beginning, thunderstorming it out at the end, but making room for discernible and surprisingly catchy melodies at the core. From the “Once in A Lifetime”-esque synth and bass of “BEAD” to the snarling “Cage Those Pythons,” (which somehow kept reminding me of “Rowche Rumble,”) to a goose-call clarinet solo, Dinowalrus had me hooked in the gills from their very first song to the moment they rolled their snare drum into the audience, signaling that it was time for me to book it upstairs to catch Harlem’s set.
Jay Z and Alicia Keys Delay Performance of “Empire State of Mind” at Yankees/Phillies World Series To Thursday; Jay Set to Censor “Empire” For the Performance, Meaning All Uses of “Shit” Will Hopefully Get Changed to “Shoot,” “Poop,” or “Barnacles” [Brooklyn Vegan]
Watch Superchunk Frontman/Merge Records Founder Mac McCaughan Cover Merge Artists Spoon and the Magnetic Fields; He’s Playing “Come Back From San Francisco” Which Is One of the Loveliest of the 69 Love Songs [Spin]
Download Brand New Lil Wayne Mixtape No Ceiling Right Now; Man, The Next Weezy Mixtape May Be Live Mixed From Prison. Possible Prison Titles “Robitussin Prison Blues,” “Me and T.I. Out in the Stockyard,” “My Daddy (Remix)” [Nah Right]
Stream Swedish Duo Air France’s Remix of St. Etienne’s “Spring;” It’s Light and Organic, Unlike Most of Air France’s Material, Which Sounds Almost Directly Ripped From the Soundtrack of Sega’s Sonic Adventure [Gorilla vs. Bear]
Watch Video For Basement Jaxx’s “My Turn,” Which Makes Heavy Use of One of the Most Underrepresented Figures in Nature/Pop Culture: Bears With Swords [Stereogum]
Norwegian DJ Extraordinaire Lindstrøm To Record 40 Minute Version of the “Little Drummer Boy”; Elsewhere, I Pull Out My “List of Things I Really Don’t Need” And Add a 40 Minute Version of “Little Drummer Boy” [Pitchfork]
compiled by Max Sebela