Thursday, April 22, 2010

You're Dead To Me

It's funny when things you may have at one time loved or at least enjoyed somehow enter the realm of "get this off of my stereo/tv" fodder. It can be caused by a break-up, commercial radio, growing up or just plain "what was I thinking!?" Anyway, as today is extremely slow at work, here's a quicky guide to the things that In The Wake of Poseidon no longer tolerates. This list is totally seperate but sometimes might overlap the list of things I just personally hate. But most of these artists are not on a Fleetwood Mac/Jimmy Buffet level of hatred. No many can come that close to pure revilement.

Billy Joel - The real catalyst for this entry is in fact a conversation with a friend. Recently I've become more and more completely against anything Billy Joel. I blame classic rock radio for this. Billy Joel is an artist whose hits are way better than his album material, but even then those hits have become increasingly less palatable as the years go by. I'll still enjoy a handful of his songs. There is no way that I won't ever enjoy the silliness of "Movin' Out" with it's heart attack-ack-ack-ack's and overly produced sound. I also extremely enjoy "Just The Way You Are" maybe because it's my parents wedding song. But if I have to hear "Scenes From an Italian Restaurant" in full ever again.... bad things may happen. His songs lost all luster to me. He tacks himself on tour with Elton John and comparing the two gets annoying. Elton's piano playing is far superior and lyrically (well for the most part) Bernie Taupin does a better job. EJ isn't without his blemishes, but Elton John's catalog at large has countless classics that go beyond the singles. I find this one half a shame and half a loss due to overexposure so maybe BJ is less "dead to me" and more "on notice." Regardless, I could care less what Brenda and Eddy are doing.

Donnie Darko - No real surprise here. Donnie Darko was introduced to me at a very transitional time in my life. I had yet to become the uber snob of movies that I can safely ay I have become (I can't stand to watch most movies and have found myself watching documentaries or Criterion Collection selections more than anything else.) I was still young and somewhat angsty, so the characters in Darko seemed pretty relatable. I also enjoyed pretty much anything as long as it had an intense world that sucks you into and that I've found is the only thing Donnie Darko has going for it. I haven't watched it in a very long time, but I can safely say that I have very little desire to do so. Richard Kelly has proven his hackery to us through the insanely horrible Southland Tales and looking back at Darko proves that only a few things good have come from it. A great scene put to Tears For Fears' "Head Over Heels" which is a fantastic song and a few lines of dialogue, specifically one that has become the moniker for our Fantasy Football League. "They need to go for a safety."

Pink Floyd's The Wall (Album) - Strangely enough, whenever I listen to The Wall, the only two things I think of are Hoskins and Geldoff. As I assume a lot of people realize, The Wall is an epicly overrated album. It's not bad. This is one of those things that I'm sure I will still enjoy from time to time, but in no way would The Wall be in my top 10 Pink Floyd albums. The overstuffed album is just too long to really enjoy anymore and it's story, although intriguing, is done better on albums like Wish You Were Here or Animals. It's also strange that I'd prefer to watch the film version rather than listen to the album. That's right. I said it. I enjoy the movie more so than the album. The movie is half really bizarre filled with amazing animations and half hilarious acting care of Geldoff and Hoskins (who is only in it for like once scene... but he steals the show!) I can't really explain it much further but everytime I hear "Comfortably Numb", all I picture is Geldoff's face during the "AAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!" part and I just start laughing. That's not good, especially for a song that used to be easily my fav Floyd track.

Cable TV - I've never been a huge TV watcher, but I can safely say that I don't really need a television. Sure I'm missing Treme which poses to be the next best TV show since.... maybe since The Wire and Arrested Development ended? Not that I don't enjoy TV if it is on, but lately I can't really tell you any shows that I've been dying to watch. Most of what I want to see is BBC Comedy or is somehow available via Netflix streaming. Since four seasons of No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain is available at all times, why bother? I also have no capability of keeping up with most TV shows. Since TV has it's new golden age bubbling forth (suppsoedly), I get hooked on a show, forget what channel its on or just have something more pressing to do then watch a TV show on any given night off. I just don't have time for it! Since everything is put on DVD, I'd rather watch it all in one sitting or over the course of a few weeks. Gone are the TV shows that aren't interconnected by some story. The sitcom is basically dead and the best TV dramas are all on HBO or Showtime. Screw cable. I'll be behind the curve with TV then. I guess I'm cheap. The only thing I will miss are sporting events but I can always go to a friends place or to a bar to catch that.

That's all for now. I'm done complaining about things I used to enjoy.

Goldfrapp Taps Into 80's Gloss Perfectly

Somewhere in the beginning of 2009, I finally sat down and started my Goldfrapp research. I had loved a selection of songs that a friend of a friend turned me on to and this past year I finally put the effort into her catalog. One thing about Goldfrapp that makes me like her so much is that she has a sense of style but is constantly changing and trying something different within her sound. Alison Goldfrapp and William Gregory have their fingers on the pulse of intriguing pop music. The duo's latest record, Head First, is less like any of their previous offerings. In a certain sense, this is their most approachable record. Supernature is pretty poppy but there are still elements there that make it a little less open to mainstream success. This isn't to sound like a dig into the new Goldfrapp record. Head First has many excellent moments on the record and a handful of excellent pop songs that should make Goldfrapp a more commonly loved artist.

The first single, "Rocket" is a synthetic dance number that aims to please on so many levels. Sounding like it should be used in a montage scene from a mid 80's film, "Rocket" takes on a level of catchiness that is reminiscent to Hot Fuss era Killers meets Kenny Loggins knee deep in his soundtrack era. The hook is huge and the chorus is epic. I find it hard getting the track out of my head. It's a fantastic way to kick off the record. The next track, "Believer" sounds like a Kraftwerk song played at a slightly higher speed. It's synth beats and hooks are more pronounced and would go excellently with a work out, a run or any high octane experience. It's excellent driving pop music. "Alive", the second single to come in June, is the perfect anthem. Put this song into a time capsule, send it to the soundtrack creators of such films as One Crazy Summer or Better Off Dead. It's infectious with a hint of uplifting lyrics. The rest of the album kind of wanders within this territory. Unlike other Goldfrapp discs, this is very much a one trick pony. It's a damn catchy one, but there isn't as much variety as say Supernature did. A solid record overall, Head First is a nice edition to the ever changing synth pop sounds of Goldfrapp, one that any fan of good, fun pop music could and should embrace. There is no doubt I will have this record blasting on road trips to the shore or at parties. It's fun. Nothing super engaging, but incredibly fun, poppy music.

Congratulations, MGMT!

When I first heard MGMT back when Oracular Spectacular was released, I only ever connected with the big hooks on the big hits on the album. A track like "Electric Feel" is unnecessarily catchy. "Kids" is anthemic and has a pulse pounding riff that is inescapable. "Time to Pretend" is a dark yet funny take on fame and, as with the other tracks here listed, is addictive to a high degree. The rest of the disc in general is somewhat forgettable when stacked up with the kind of hooks that these three power players had. Flash-forward to this year. 2010 boasted a new MGMT album and all I could think of is "they are either going to have a sophomore slump or have more mega hits." Well, Congratulations has finally surfaced but a few weeks ago and it is something entirely different. As if evolving into a totally different band, MGMT have a new sound that is spectacular and works in complete opposite to their much loved debut.

Surprisingly, there are no songs like "Electric Feel" or "Kids." Not any sign of that catchy pop sensibility anywhere. Instead we get complex, sprawling tracks that are easily just as catchy, but with a less sunshiny feel. Something seriously sinister is lurking in the background somewhere. What is apparently obvious is that MGMT is not slumping but growing and becoming more than what the debut album would lead you to believe. One thing many reviews points out is that MGMT is "going to lose fans" due to the departure. Well, then screw them for not seeing the light. The album kicks off with a catchy enough tune in "It's Working." The track is a combination of 60's baroque pop with soaring harmonies and a little harpsichord splashed in the background as well as having all the trappings of a post punk band like XTC with it's fast paced guitars and overall spastic drone. Tracks like "Flash Delirium" and "Brian Eno" are two very strangely intriguing and beguiling tracks. "Flash Delirium" slowly morphs and evolves as the track goes on ending in a fast paced punk rock finale that ends abruptly. "Brian Eno" is a strange story about the titular artist/producer that reminds me a little of Oingo Boingo with its jumpy and jittery guitar passages. The grand "Siberian Breaks" is a brilliant epic. Over 12 minutes, the song shape shifts and is extremely progressive in sound. The only track remotely close to possibly being a single is the titular finale, but it's far from the best moment on the album.

MGMT set out to make an album experience as they have said in interviews. They've definitely succeed. Oracular Spectacular is a great collection of tracks with a few dull moments which is better than most bands could wish to do on a debut. Luckily, unlike most bands that start with a bang, Congratulations really blows away the first record. Even if it isn't singles friendly, it's an experience all to itself. It deserves full immersion and start to finish listening only that few artists can pull off without any lulls. This, my friends, may be the best record released this year thus far.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Broken Bells Underwhelms, But That's Not a Terrible Thing

This article was strange to write. After several spins of the James Mercer/Danger Mouse collaboration Broken Bells, I was left with a feeling of mild joy and felt a bit underwhelmed.. And I didn't feel bad about it. Joy only in the sense that certain tracks make me long for more of The Shins. The album as a whole is a collection of songs more than an album experience. You never feel fully immersed in any atmosphere from Danger Mouse. I must have a complex but I can't really pull myself away from the thoughts that certain songs would have sounded better in their respective groups. The only track that really takes on a wholly unique sound on the album is "Mongrel Heart." Easily the best track on the album, it takes on a swagger that is different from the overtly pop infused tracks of the rest of the album. "Vaporize" is the best of the two singles, but while listening the only thing that goes through my head is how this would have sounded great on a Shins record. Inversely, the track "The Ghost Inside" clearly would sound much better as a Gnarls Barkley single. These tracks are missing something extra to give it that extra punch that would make them Broken Bells. At the end of all of this, I still enjoy these songs. It's hard to put my head around it as more than a collection of tracks rather than an album. I can flip through and pick a few decent tracks to enjoy, but I will never really return to this record as a start to finish experience. As much as I don't think Broken Bells is a good album experience, it still has decent contents. "The High Road" is catchy and has some cool sounds floating through it, but I just can't really get into listening to the whole record in one sitting. What it boils down to is that I have a hard time detaching myself from James Mercer's The Shins and Danger Mouse's previous work especially Gnarls Barkley. I don't really see a band called Broken Bells. To me that's a bit disappointing, but only a little bit as when they go back to their respective bands, they may have learned something from each other.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Eno and Budd Create Magic

In a previous post, I ran through the albums of Brian Eno and his solo projects from the prog glam of Here Come the Warm Jets to the polar opposite space infused ambience of Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks. I strayed away from his collaborative albums due to my inability to find many of them and the fact that there are so many. I will probably do another Eno discography in the future as I have picked up a large amount of these collaborations lately, but I can't really wait any longer to share my love of Harold Budd and Brian Eno's fantastic Ambient 2: The Plateaux of Mirror. Some may say ambient music has the same utility as an oscillating fan or sounds nothing more than a bunch of avant garde musicians being snooty and lazy. To me, at least this album more than any other I've encountered, is an experience. It's an emotional experience filled with warmth and hope and completely compelling soundscapes. What The Plateaux of Mirror does better than any of the other countless Eno Ambient outings, especially of the 4 actually labeled in the Ambient series, is create the mood of ambient music with a little more warmth. This might be a distraction if you solely enjoy ambient music to just soak into the atmosphere like volcanic ash. To me, it's a huge plus. Much like most of Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks, there is more than just tape loops. Harold Budd's piano, either electronic or not, takes front and center. Eno will lob up some nice atmospheric tones or some tape looped vocal arrangements and Budd takes these elements and runs with them. A song like "Not Yet Remembered" is a beautifully devastating track. The back and forth sway of Budd's elegiac piano coupled with the synth vocal swells is moving to a huge effect. "The Plateaux of Mirror" is on an electric piano and it takes on another side of what Ambient 2 excels at. It sounds all at once classical and futuristic. It's all in all beautiful music and an album that shouldn't be forgotten.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Diversion: Hop City DJ's

As I start to soak in the Broken Bells debut album and prepare a lil write up, I've decided to do a quick list again of a few unforgettable beers. I rarely talk food or drink on this blog, but beer is a huge part of my life as I love all things craft beer and would dream someday to brew my own beer (happening sooner than later.) This isn't a best of, it's more of a "Damn this is the stuff I need" at the moment kinda thang.

Flying Fish Exit 16 - The Flying Fish Exit Series has been excellent thus far. Exit 4 is now available in 6 packs and cases year round and Exit 11, the Hoppy American Wheat was one of the best beers I've ever tasted, but the latest series, the Wild Rice Double IPA is something to behold. It is easily the best IPA Flying Fish has released, far overshadowing there standard Hopfish IPA. Here's the description of this brew:

"Exit 16 Wild Rice Double IPA is named for the exit that leads travelers across the salt-marsh of the Meadowlands to the Sportsplex and Lincoln Tunnel. The beer was brewed with over 1,200 pounds of wild, organic brown and white rice, which helps the beer ferment dry to better showcase the five varieties of hops that are brewed in. It is later dry-hopped with generous additions of Chinook and Citra hops, creating a complex nose with hints of tangerine, mango, papaya and pine. The Exit 16 label includes a Web site,, with more information on preservation and restoration projects in the Meadowlands."
North Coast's Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout - Last night at The Pour House, a local South Jersey watering hole, I was inclined to get a Stout with my order of oysters and luckily Old Rasputin was in stock. This may be my favorite stout out there. It is complex and delicious with each sip. The brownish gold head of the beer showcases the brews beauty and the flavors of coffee and chocolate don't overwhelm but add to the darkness. It went rather well with the raw bar oysters and the cup of soup I rocked. I couldn't think of a better beer to pair with a warm cup of soup and tasty oysters now that I think of it. And all you need is one. Might just have to pick some Rasputin up and look into some possible recipes. Maybe slow cooked flank steak? Not sure. Regardless, Old Rasputin is fantastic.

Southern Tier's Unearthly - My world was rocked recently when the last batch of Nugget Nectar seemed to leave a different taste on my flavor pallet then what I remember. This is sad news as Nugget Nectar was easily my favorite beer. Luckily I did have some great draught Nectar's so it's not completely dead to me. However, when I first started to dabble in the Southern Tier catalog, I found what is easily my new favorite beer: Unearthly. This may be the best beer I've had. One bomber is all you need, so it's not a long player of sorts, but it's deliciousness is impossible to avoid. It's also a bit on the alcoholic side. Rocking in at 11% ABV, one bomber of Unearthly will fit all your needs for the night. Tonight I break out the Oak Aged Unearthly. Stay tuned on that one....
That's all for now. Every once in a while I'll post about some brews I think you should check out.