Wednesday, March 15, 2006

album review: yeah yeah yeahs- show your bones.

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it goes without saying that yeah yeah yeahs burst onto the scene like a rocket with their eponymous ep. the art punk trio from brooklyn was thrust into the spotlight around the same time that the strokes were crowned the "saviors of rock and roll." their ep was a reflection of what everyone has grown to love about them: karen o's unadulterated spontaniety and superstar charisma; nick zinner's bluesy, punky, and downright awesome guitar riffs; and brian chase's sometimes perfectly-timed, sometimes super-raw drumming. then came the critically-acclaimed fever to tell full-length, which came right after a jump to interscope records. it was released with virtually no fanfare, and with the help of the timeless art-punk mixtape staple "maps," turned them into alternative rock radio's favorite children.

after a rigorous touring schedule, karen moved from brooklyn to la, nick put out a fantastic photography book [and a hipster coffee table staple], and brian played in his side project and taught drum lessons to the kids back in new york, they got together and recorded their second lp in los angeles. when most bands describe their sophomore album as a "drastic change," the average music fan would cough "bullshit" under their breath. this is what early reports of show your bones were describing. however, what happened is something similar to how franz ferdinand handled their criminally-overlooked second album: changed up the formula just enough to show that they were more than a one trick pony. but when your one trick is as awesome as yeah yeah yeah's first album, is that a good thing?

track one. "gold lion":
the first track, and the lead single, starts out with a drumbeat similar to queen's "we will rock you," minus the stadium pomp. then, an instrument that did not show its face on the first album, the acoustic guitar, comes in, along with karen's voice. this song reminded me a lot of tegan and sara, which is by no means a bad thing. there's also a couple of eerie sounds and a nice little synth line that come in later. i could imagine some hipster kids ironically pumping their fists to this song.

track two. "way out":
starting out with either a fuck-up or just nick practicing, this song ends up sounding more like a tegan and sara song than "gold lion." only, it rocks a little harder. by the end of the chorus, nick busts out another guitar-god moment, making me bang my head for the first time since the first time i heard "smells like teen spirit." and that's an incredible feat. something tells me that nick zinner is going to be the hipster's robert plant, if he isn't already. mark my words.

track three. "fancy":
speaking of "smells like teen spirit" this song sounds like it would have made a killing in the grunge era. it's slow, sludgy, with karen's refrain of "we're just another part of you," which in itself may be the new slogan for teen angst. by the bridge of the song, karen quiets down and sounds the guitar pedals must have been set to "eerie" again. at the end of the song, there is a rock out, and a great solo by nick.

track four. "phenomena":
great drumbeat, and a fantastic guitar riff. and karen's chant of "i'm something like a phenomena" reminds me of the really shitty ll cool j song called "phenomenon." that's the spirit of rock and roll: taking something shitty and turning it into something that's awesome. lots of weird effects right after the choruses. that makes for a very artful effect. towards the end are very ethereal, and eerie [that word again!] chants.

track five. "honeybear":
the setup of this song is wonderful: dance-punk, followed by a bouncy chorus with a great riff, followed by slow and bluesy verses. rinse and repeat. i'm really rocking out to this song. i have no time to analzye it.

track six. "cheated hearts":
the media is calling this song "the followup to 'maps' ", but i see it as the direct link between this release and their debut. karen's vocals are softer, and this is arguably the catchiest song on this album thus far, so i can see the comparison. and the chorus is one of the best things i've heard all year. nick zinner is my guitar hero.

track seven. "dudley":
this is the type of atmospheric rock song that u2 has been trying to write for years. it would be an anthem, if it weren't for the direct rip-off of the "mockingbird" [the nursery rhyme, not the carly simon song]. it's a good song, but i can't get past the fact that karen decided to directly rip off that melody. i'm sure if she would have come up with something on her own, or rip off anything else, it would have made this song better.

track eight. "mysteries":
rollicking drums and guitars, and a bright-sounding melody from karen o makes this song sound like the best garage rock anthem that jack white didn't write. expect the stripes to cover this song with meg on vocals. it's that good.

track nine. "the sweets":
a minimalist drum pattern and acoustic guitar line. karen sounding kind of somber. this is my favorite vocal melody on this album. between the first and second verse, there are more eerie guitar effects. i don't want to drive that word into the ground, but there are no better words to describe it. after the second verse, the drums kick in in a big way, and after a building crescendo, the song turns into a sludgy rockout. this is, undoubtedly, the climax of the album.

track ten. "warrior":
it sounds like they recorded this song in a closet, which isn't a bad thing at all. it makes for a great comedown to something as fierce as the ending of "the sweets." this is karen's saddest, quietest vocal performance since "modern romance." then, everything gets louder. to fantastic results.

track eleven. "turn into":
an anthemic, silver-lining ending to the sadness that was "warrior." it's amazing how these guys made the tracklisting so perfect. every song added to the mood of the album. there's a little bit of piano in this song. another song u2 wishes they would have written.

yeah yeah yeahs knocked another one out of the park. with the exception of "dudley," which was a minor stumble, nick, karen, and brian created a fantastic record. just enough creativity and progression to prove this to be the total opposite of a sophomore slump. in fact, it's like their first step to becoming a huge band.

essential tracks:
"the sweets," "cheated hearts," "mysteries."

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

notes on two reality television shows.

flavor of love:

bethanne: so that said, hot question: what'd you think of the spitting incident?
douglas: i would risk having to leave the show and go out there and WHOOP PUMPKIN'S ASS!
douglas: spitting is a BIG no-no.
bethanne: absolutely!
bethanne: i would have kicked her ass too
bethanne: that's called being a sore loser and being rude about it. even though new york has an attitude problem, i wouldn't spit in her face
bethanne: i'd call her a bitch and walk away, but i would never spit
armchair novels: "sorry, flav, but spitting elicits an automatic ass-whoopin."
bethanne: hahahahahahahahaha!
bethanne: it was funny in the clip-filled recap episode when they showed the extra footage
douglas: i wouldn't have said anything. pumpkin had no right to say shit. so what if new york was talking shit? pumpkin is the one that was on like 8 reality shows.
douglas: i've even SEEN her on next and blind date.
bethanne: no shit.
bethanne: OH SHIT! she was on next?
bethanne: i think i might have seen her before on it
douglas: i looked at her, and was like, "that ugly white girl looks really familiar."
bethanne: hahahahaha!
bethanne: new york said it best that she needed a facelift

america's next top model:

douglas: did you watch top model? more importantly, did you see the racist chick?
bethanne: i couldn't fucking STAND the bitch
douglas: dude. she was cute though. i wish i could fuck some sense into her.
bethanne: hahahahahahaha!
bethanne: that's amazing
douglas: after one night with me, she'd be like, "i LOVE black guys!"
bethanne: HAHAHA!
bethanne: everyone would love you for doing that! haha
douglas: that's what i should do. make a reality show, where i fuck racist chicks and make them change their minds about other races.
douglas: well, she was more of a bigot, which is actually worse than racism, because she hates everyone.
bethanne: ahahahahahahahaha! genius!
bethanne: yeah, i did not like her attitude against everyone. it's not right
bethanne: that goes to show she's your typical closeted republican stiff
douglas: the armchair novelist: fucking sense into racist girls everywhere.
douglas: yeah. seriously.
bethanne: that's your new tagline! haha
douglas: HAHA.
douglas: i'm totally posting this. and the flavor of love conversation.
bethanne: you should

album review: tv on the radio- return to cookie mountain.

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what happens when my favorite indie band jumps ship to the same record label as dr. dre? they get weirder, that's what. tv on the radio, ever since the release of young liars, has been one of my favorite bands. in fact, they're probably my number three favorite band of all-time, following radiohead and modest mouse. with all due respect to the aforementioned bands, tv on the radio is unlike anything i've ever heard in my life. when people ask what they sound like, that's usually my answer. the closest thing i can compare them to is "kid a-era radiohead, only weirder." needless to say when i read that my third-favorite band of all time was planning to release a new album in 2006, a ridiculous sense of anticipation came over me. when i read they jumped ship to interscope with their bff's yeah yeah yeahs, i became happy that they might actually recieve the widespread acclaim they deserve. when i found their new album online, being the greedy internet pirate that i am, i had to listen to it. plus, i have an obligation as an amateur music journalist to provide an exclusive review of another fantastic masterpiece.

track one. "playhouses":
the song starts out like "new health rock," only faster and more sinister. i could see the scenester kids jumping up and down, banging their heads furiously with the tight rhythm section. a little more than halfway through the song, the band slows down the tempo. and then, kicks back into the beat with the fuzz bass. oh, and the saxaphones are a nice touch. reminiscent of the opener for desperate youth, bloodthirsty babes, "the wrong way."

track two. "i was a lover":
the song starts out with a faux-hip-hop beat, a little bit of guitar, and an orchestral sample. tunde and kyp come in with the falsettos. then, by the "chorus," distorted guitars that sound kind of like the bustle of traffic, take over the song. followed by a fantastic second verse, and a piano bridge, and everything comes to a climactic end.

track three. "province":
a bouncy drumbeat. a two-note guitar line. more falsettos. then, the verse kicks in with a very memorable melody. and by the chorus- DAVID FUCKING BOWIE! not to mention a very atmopheric climax. then, the piano kicks into the second verse. i have to note that the addition of the piano, which reminds me of the piano sound on so many of the walkmen's records, is a spectacular sound to add to these records.

track four. "snakes and martyrs":
on this track, the drums sound less isolated than on desperate youth. however, the melody and the harmonies sound like they would be right at home on their first album. on the second verse, there is a single piano note that adds a little bit of texture to the already atmospheric track.

track five. "wolf like me":
the song starts out with a distorted sound clash that's not too dissonant, with tunde and kyp's trademark harmonies. then, the drums kick in, and it reminds me of something similar to a hip-hop version of matt from bloc party's fantastic drumming. although i haven't talked about the lyrics on any song yet, it seems as though the prinicple lyricists (tunde and kyp) are as strong as anything on their previous releases: "beneath the cigarettes and the sugar, shit and the alcohol breath, i could taste the ocean on your tongue."

track six. "tonight":
the drums sound like something that would go on an animal collective record. yes, like a drum circle. dave's guitar is pushed into the background to make for the vocals (which sound like four or five people singing during the verses, and screaming during the chorus), the drums, and the hummable bassline.

track seven. "dirty whirlwind":
starting out sounding like something you would hear at closing time at the bar (floating bassline, tambourine, and a fantastic keyboard line), and then going into the most singable melody on the album thus far, this song should be the first single.

track eight. "a method":
very minimalist, with just a bassline, tunde's voice, and some chimes in the distance. then, the bassline kicks in, and so does more tambourine. when the "ooh ooh ooh's" kick in, so does the atmospheric guitar sound. then, for the second verse, 808 drums breeze their way into the song. this song reminds me of what it might feel like to be floating in the sky after a long night of drinking. after the second iteration of the chorus, it sounds like there is a clarinet melody. beneath that, you can hear tunde whistling. then, towards the end, you can hear the 808's and a bunch of atmospheric sounds.

track nine. "let the devil in":
claps and whistles are heard as the track fades in. then, tunde starts singing, and a marching band pattern kicks in. then, voices and the fuzz bass sing the same melody. "there is hardly a method you know" is the refrain that you hear before everything fades out, and the drums kick back in. i can hardly write anything, because i'm too busy listening to the song. there is some wonderful harmonizing, and then, the whistles and the claps take the track to its end.

track ten. "blues from down here":
a sinister synth/bass line, and a shuffle-type beat. almost industrial rock. i'm too busy listening again to write anything more about this song. it's amazing, just like all of the rest of them.

track eleven. "wash the day away":
lots of distortion, and a simple drum beat that the pixies could have used on one or more songs. this track has almost an anthemic sound to it. i could almost imagine it being played in a stadium. then, after a VERY anthemic climax, the song burns out, and you're left with the ashes and the simmering. exceptional closing track.

so, noone's really sure if this is going to be what the album actually sounds like, and the guys in tvortr might change up the tracklisting or add a song or two, just to fuck with us. all i have to say that if THIS is the finished product, it's going to be album of the year on a lot of lists in december. including mine. this is an instant classic. another spellbinding masterpiece from one of america's best bands.

essential tracks: pick any one. seriously.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

live review: jenny lewis and the watson twins [featuring willy mason]; neumo's, march 8th, 2006

i've really kept it no secret that i'm desperately in love with jenny lewis. needless to say, when i read the dates for her solo tour with the watson twins, i asked for the day of and the day after the concert off. i bought two tickets, and made my girlfriend skip her dance class to join me. she happily obliged, but had no clue that she was in for one of the best shows she's ever seen.

standing in line on an uncharacteristically frigid march evening, i overheard [i.e. "was eavesdropping on"] a conversation between the people behind me, saying that whispertown 2000 wasn't playing tonight. that news was met with disappointment by me, being that i was really interested in seeing them, and possibly buying some whispertown merch [i'm a band button collector, holla]. with that said, the doors were opening a half-hour later, much to our freezing dismay.

after about an hour wait inside, willy mason took the stage with his cousin on what looked like an 8-string ukelele, and a friend of his on what looked like a portable lap-steel with a waist strap. willy mason floated through a set of old-time country-sounding songs, which were good, but didn't really stand out. he sang a song written by his mother, which was pretty cute, as he explained that she just quit her day job to persue a career in music. the highlight of his 45-minute set was his cover of hank williams' "lovesick blues," especially when he hit hank's country yodel spot on. it makes me wish that willy would do the country yodel on his own songs.

after withstanding some annoying complaints from the scenester girls behind me for being too tall, the lights dimmed very low, and four male musicians took the stage. being that i know that johnathan rice, jenny's boyfriend [booooo!], is in her touring band, i knew the main event was about to start. noone else seemed to know, and started groaning at the thought of another opening act. however, in the distance, coming from backstage, you could hear a familiar, beautiful harmony. "run devil run" was being sung as jenny lewis and the beautiful watson twins walked in sync onto the stage, wearing gorgeous black dresses [jenny had one with a neckline draped in sequins]. i had no clue how amazing their voices would sound in person. after the acapella, they went right into "the big guns." jenny's guitar wasn't working at all, but she didn't let that stop her. the performance of one of my favorite songs on rabbit fur coat, despite the minor setback, was spot-on.

the band played all the hits, including "the charging sky" and "rise up with fists!" the real treats, however, were the new songs and the song from jenny's split single with whispertown, "paradise." on the latter song, the watsons clicked little rocks together. it could have sounded shitty, but it sounded wonderful.

i'm not sure how many of my readers are chuch-going folks, but when i was a kid, i grew up in the church. jenny's second new song had the feel of a gospel song, complete with a breakdown at the end that sounded like the music the guys in my church band played when people were catching the holy ghost. it was a wonderful song. it even featured a spoken-word verse from johnathan rice.

after the rousing climax of the new song, all of the band members, with the exception of the lead singer, left the stage. that was the point where jenny proceeded to play a heartbreaking rendition of "rabbit fur coat." i've never been to a show where someone played a song to complete silence. while jenny sang the title track to my favorite album of 2006 so far, i heard someone drop a quarter. that moment gave me goosebumps. after jenny finished "rabbit fur coat," the band members joined her onstage, as they played a very climactic version of "born secular," complete with the band members leaving one by one in this order: jenny, the twins, johnathan, the keyboard player, the bassist, and after a fucking awesome drum solo, the drummer left.

after the prerequisite break, jenny came back onstage alone for the first song of the encore, a sped-up version of "it wasn't me." then, the watson twins came out, and they sang a beautiful acapella cover of "i met him on a sunday." then, the rest of the band came out and played their live staple, their cover of "cold jordan" [correct me if i got that song title wrong]. i must state that when jenny and johnathan shared the mic, resting their heads on each other, it made me slightly jealous. it was a great song, and a very energetic way to end the show, nonetheless. they took a bow, and our heroine left with the seattle crowd in the palm of her hand.

it's safe to say that jenny lewis is my favorite female singer/songwriter, but i had no clue that she was going to be as good as she was [or sound as beautiful] live. the watson twins were spectacular accompaniment, and everyone in the backing band did their job to wonderful results. if you were ever wondering why jenny lewis is as acclaimed as she is, see her live. you won't be disappointed.