Archive for May 2010
Short and sweet post today, friends: it’s Memorial Day, and it’s time you get your good-lookin self outside because it’s gorgeous (well it’s supposed to be. At the moment of writing this it’s actually 11pm on Sunday and we at FP are all sitting around in our nighties and watching our mood rings change color). Regardless of the weather, we hope you get to go outside today and eat good food and drink beers or just plain revel in the beginnings of sweet summer days.
But make sure you clean up by 7.00 pm.
Then, head to The Local 269, if there are tickets left, oh God let there please be tickets left so we can go too, to see the amazing the wonderful the legendary Charles Gayle (thanks, ct, for the introduction to him, back in the days of weekly Vandermark 5 shows at the Empty Bottle) leading a band of musicians to play one of John Coltrane’s final albums, Interstellar Space.
1. He once lived on the streets of New York, which is where he started playing.
3. Is a hard-core spiritual dude.
4. Whatever the man has in him, he channels it out his motherloving, yawping, crying, squeak-filled holy saxophone.
Now, it is free jazz, which is like poetry or performance art in that there’s lots of layer-upon-layer shit we don’t always really understand, and sometimes someone may talk about it all deep and weird and then we feel stupid because we think we’re missing the point.
Oh God. That sounded just like former-fellow-bartender Steve, who looked like Sal Paradise meets Ned Flanders’ dad. He talked like that too, and would smoke after our shift was over and then bliss out on Sun Ra and Thai food. Steve if you’re still around, look us up on Facebook will you? And thanks, by the way, for trading all the Gayle, Ayler, Vandermark and more. Our Gestalting brains thank you.
Now please, go have fun, have a wonderful day, and we hope to see you at the show.
[FP’s weekly column on music before 1990 appears on Sundays]
As we settled into Mem Day weekend with backyard barbecues, we were saddened to learn of the death of Dennis Hopper. In an acting career than spanned six decades, Hopper appeared in more than 115 films, from Rebel Without a Cause to Apocalypse Now to Speed. But his gift to Hollywood (and the culture at large) came in 1969 with Easy Rider, which he directed and co-wrote with Terry Southern. The archetypal road trip movie follows Hopper, Peter Fonda, and a then little-known Jack Nicholson on a drug-fueled motorcycle ride across the country. The Easy Rider soundtrack is a snapshot of late 60s rock, with cuts from Dylan, the Byrds, and Jimi Hendrix. Combined with a preponderance of long, wordless scenes, the soundtrack makes the film a veritable music video jukebox. Below, three of FP’s favorites.
Steppenwolf, The Pusher
The Byrds, The Ballad of Easy Rider
Holy Modal Rounders, If You Want to Be a Bird
And no matter how many times you’ve heard “Born to Be Wild,” it’s hard to beat the song’s urgency in the opening sequence of Easy Rider when pretty boy Fonda and Hopper, in moustache and cowboy regalia, rumble across the Colorado River.
More recently, Hopper collaborted with Gorillaz on “Fire Coming Out of A Monkey’s Head,” performed below at New York’s Apollo Theater.
Earlier this week, the folks at The Kitchen honored David Byrne for being awesome. An RISD dropout who mastered three instruments (guitar, accordian, violin) before high school, he’s a pioneer in sampling, a videographer of volcanic ash clouds and a well-nigh genius of sound. In his free time, he puts together theater pieces, goes hiking and attends conferences on New Urbanism. Let’s face it. Awesome.
This is what we imagine it would be like to be friends with Byrne:
(Setting: your apartment. A dinner party. It’s been great — you feel good, positive, pleasant. It’s just past the peak of the party, say maybe 1:30am. Everyone is having fun. You’re relaxed. The doorbell rings. It’s DAVID BYRNE.)
YOU: Oh! David! David Byrne! How are you?
(DAVID BYRNE’s skin is young, taut, almost … is it … sparkling? His white hair is punk-tousled from the ride on, oh what’s that there? Just a friendly kangaroo. Somehow, he’s smuggled a marsupial into the country, trained it and ridden it to the party. He tosses his housekeys to the animal, who catches them in its little pocket.)
YOU: Oh. You can. Park him … in the … ?
DB: No, no, no trouble; I’m just stopping by to say hello. How are you? (kiss, kiss) You look great. I brought guacamole! It’s all local and organic (hands you a bowl of it: fresh, aromatic, bright). How are your parents? How’s your broken heart? I heard about the loser. You are so much better, so dynamic and wonderful and gorgeous (hug. Pulls out a manuscript). I just finished writing a short story about a hypothetical relationship between Kant, Einstein and Eno. Keep it, read it, tell me what you think. (Then, presenting a bottle of Veuve.) Champagne?
DB: Hey (cocks head to one side). I know that look. Don’t worry, I’m just like you. My head gets buzzy when I drink Champagne too. I too feel awkward when I foray into unknown territories. Just ask Norm. Oh crap. I have to go; I have a bowling date with Cindy Sherman. Gotta get there early; last time she slew me. Two turkeys! What a slut. (Climbs onto the kanga.) It was really, really, really nice to see you. I really mean it about the loser. You are worth so much more than that. Call me, will you? I missed you when was in Atlanta. (He taps the side of the beast, smiles, laughs, soars into the air. A flying drum circle trails him, rhythmically thumping into the night.)
Esoteric analogy? Perhaps. The point is: Byrne may be unpredictable, his work disarming, but he remains accessible. He is willing to take risks and look ridiculous, but he knows how to make it work. He’s the guy that out of nowhere, comes up with a brilliant idea … then actually follows through. Here Lies Love, his latest album (available in full on MySpace), is a collaboration with Fatboy Slim and some of the best female vocalists around, exploring the life of Imelda Marcos, beauty queen, shoe enthusiast and widow of former Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos. It also might be an upcoming musical at the Public.
Obviously we’re Byrne fans over here (see: gushing above). And there are some truly amazing parts to Here Lies Love, i.e., Alice Russell power-wailing “Men Will Do Anything” (p.s., get some good headphones and wait ’til minute 2:30 in that song … it’ll make yer head spin), the wildly catchy eponymous first track, sung by Florence Welch (“I know that when my number’s up/When I am called from God above/Don’t have my name carved in stone/just say here lies love”), Sharon Jones’ “Dancing Together.” A sultry Natalie Merchant shows up for “Order 1081” and it’s even nice to hear from Tori Amos again in track three.
David Byrne and Fatboy Slim – Men Will Do Anything (featuring Alice Russell)
David Byrne and Fatboy Slim – Dancing Together (featuring Sharon Jones)
Some parts are oddly self-conscious: “Ladies in Blue,” sung by Theresa Andersson, evokes the opening credits of a cheesy 80s movie — but even this is a ride we’re willing to take. It demonstrates his most appealing quality: from Talking Heads to unlikely musical collaborations and beyond, Byrne may not know where something is going, he’s always fearlessly looking for the next great thing.
P.S. Our favorite Byrne-quoting-Dylan quotation: “‘I was so much older then/I’m younger than that now.’ It’s like I feel like I’m getting older but in some ways feeling younger.”
Like LeBron James, we at FP aspire to the status of global icons. But, like LeBron James, it is also our mission to put our hometown on the map. Luckily we run a music blog, and our hometown is Brooklyn, which has more bands than Jamaica’s got mangoes.
Shortwave Sunshine is one of these bands, and (like borough-mates MiniBoone and Ava Luna), they happen to be one with our attention. Formed in 2008 in the land of Truth or Consequences, they chose to migrate east and are reaping the rewards. Their debut EP The Breakers can now be downloaded for pennies, and they will be playing a CD-release gig at Lower East Side institution The Living Room on June 1. Their warm, whimsical guitar rock (reminiscent of New Jersey’s Real Estate or, more distantly, the great Galaxie 500) as well as their album art (pictured above) suggests that June 1 is in fact the perfect day for release:
Shortwave Sunshine – The Breakers (a flood)
Shortwave Sunshine – Stuck In New York
And now, on to musical goodies from a jam-packed week:
*As reported on Frontier Psychiatrist, the soundtrack from the new movie Twilight: Eclipse (we understand it involves vampires) will feature numerous indie luminaries. Among them are Vampire (hehe) Weekend, whose contribution is brand-new and streaming below.
Vampire Weekend – Jonathan Low
Also see the band’s new video for the song “Holiday,” a fairly accurate representation of how Columbia University alumni spend their weekends:
Vampire Weekend – Holiday
*As reported everywhere earlier this week, Canadian collective Arcade Fire announced that its third full-length, entitled The Suburbs, on August 3 via Merge Records. Additionally, the band made public its first single (the album’s title track and B-side “Month Of May”), streaming below:
Arcade Fire – The Suburbs
Arcade Fire – Month Of May
*Bay-Area producer Madlib and the enigmatic MF DOOM, together known as Madvillain, have made available their first track since 2004’s Madvillainy, considered by some to be the best hip-hop record of the previous decade. The song comes to us via the Adult Swim Singles Program, which will have a free new song for us every eight weeks from artists including LCD Soundsystem, Will Oldham, and up-and-comers Washed Out and Cults.
Madvillain – Papermill
*Beck, St. Vincent (the #3 woman in indie rock…with a bullet) and Liars have been busy covering each song from the classic INXS album Kicks one by one. The latest entry, “Never Tear Us Apart:”
Record Club: INXS “Never Tear Us Apart” from Beck Hansen on Vimeo.
*Sick new dub-inspired mixtape (available for free download) from dancehall team Major Lazer and synth-poppers La Roux. Busy week for Major Lazer’s Diplo, whose role in the life of one M.I.A. was discussed at length in the New York Times. A sampling of the mixtape below (major bass warning):
Major Lazer and La Roux – Bulletproof (Nacey remix featuring Matt Hemerlein)
*The Tallest Man on Earth covers Paul Simon:
The Tallest Man on Earth – Graceland (Paul Simon Cover)
*And there was new stuff from Flying Lotus, Klaxons, Wavves…just way to much to be covered in this space. Luckily, you have the whole weekend (the most Indy weekend of all) to sift through the week’s music. Enjoy!
On their new record, Distant Relatives, Nas and Damian Marley are all about fusion. Nas brings the vehemence of the streets and a harsh realism about the state of mankind. “Junior Gong” Marley brings a mellower mood, with faith in Jah and universal brotherhood. Together, the Queens-Kingston duo, who previously collaborated on Road To Zion, portray a dark world where there’s still room to hope.
As expected, the new record fuses hip-hop and reggae styles, or as Nas describes the collaboration: “My man can speak patois/And I can speak rap star.” Marley does the bulk of the introductions and all of the refrains, while Nas fills out the verses with rhymes. The backing tracks are a pastiche of funk rhythms, half-time reggae, and African percussion, with the occasional sirens and sharpening swords as sound effects. Other cameos include the ubiquitous Li’l Wayne and the Canadian-Somali poet and rapper K’Naan. Overall, the fusion of sounds and styles elevates Marley from second generation status and benefits Nas, whose records sometimes need a beats disciple.
Nas and Damian Marley, As We Enter
Both MCs embrace their heritage in their lyrics. Nas brings the guns, drugs, benzes, and c-notes that have been hip-hop staples for decades, and name checks revolutionary icons Malcolm X, Marcus Garvey, and Geronimo. For his part, Marley references Zion, Babylon, and Rastafarianism, and tips his hat to Shaka Zulu and Burning Spear. And as Nas spells out, the title Distant Relatives refers to both men’s African ancestry and the universal origins of humanity. “We all come from one place,” he says. “We’re all one family.”
Nas and Damian Marley, Nah Mean
Still, the power of the partnership stems from their differences. Marley praise the virtues of friendship; Nas calls out fake friends. Marley envisions the Promised Land; Nas pictures the apocalypse. Marley praises black leaders; Nas drops the Jena Six. The lyrical dialectic is underscored by the differences in their voices and flows. Nas brings hardness and verbal dexterity, a guy who “balances the streets and the theories of collegiate literature.” Marley is smoother, with dance hall intonation tinged with echoes of his father Bob, who died when he was two years old. (His older brother Stephen, who sings on two tracks, sounds like a reincarnation of the reggae legend.)
Nas and Damian Marley, Dispear
Throughout, Distant Relatives looks to the past, with an eye to the future. In “Promised Land,” Marley imagines a world in which Africa reclaims its cultural heritage and becomes the new America. “My generation” opens with a children’s choir and declares “Our Generation will make a change.” In “Count My Blessings,” Nas rhymes about the birth of his son, whom he hopes to inspire in the same way that Bob Marley inspired Damian. It’s a long way from the guy who lambasted the schmaltz of “We are the World” and bragged how he would “bang bitches at John Jay/Then catch a matinee”
Indeed, Nas has mellowed somewhat with age. Distant Relatives is virtually profanity-free, a shift from the 2008 album that he wanted to call N*gger, but was ultimately released without a title. (That controversy spawned a feud with Bill O’Reilly and Fox News and landed Nas on the Colbert Report). There is only one verse on Distant Relatives about sexual prowess, and even that is tempered with references to alimony and the hopelessness of affairs with married women. And for all his self-assurance, Nas worries about his longevity, wondering “Am I still relevant as a rapper?” The question makes sense for a 36-year-old on his 10th record in 16 years: a hip-hop eternity. His 1994 debut Illmatic predates the The Notorious B.I.G.’s debut and the best work of Tupac Shakur, technically his contemporaries, but practically members of another generation due to their untimely and violent deaths.
Still, Nas is all about the problems of today: the global recession and Wall Street imbroglios, Shiite bombs, and the poverty and despair that endures in ghettos from America to Africa. At one point, he even calls himself and Marley “Two Obamas.” And the presence of Li’L Wayne suggests that the king of Queensbridge may be ready to pass the torch. But not quite yet. Nas and Marley are on tour this spring and summer, with a New York show July 31 on the Williamsburg Waterfront. Count your blessings.
(Our Weekly Wednesday Countdown)
At their best, double albums are double the pleasure: musicians push the boundaries of their creativity and fans get extra time with artists they love. In a form that attracts the prolific, the experimental, and the indulgent, there have been successes (The Beatles, a.k.a. The White Album), catastrophes (Tales from Topographic Ocean), and even the occasional sales boosters or shortcuts to fulfilling contracts.
In the vinyl days, a double album was easy to spot: there were two records in the sleeve. Later many double albums fit on one CD. Now the difference between single and double albums is measured in megabytes. Yet even in the digital age, albums endure and artists continue to make them super-sized. Here at FP, we’re waiting on the corner of Keap and Hope to see if Wolf Parade decides to make their new album a double.
For now, our Top 5 double albums contains no greatest hits collections, anthologies, concert recordings, or bonus remixes. We do, however, allow for the co-release, a trick that dates back to Use Your Illusion. Thanks, Axl. And since we posted our Top 5 double albums of all time on Sunday, today we highlight albums from the last decade.
5. Outkast, Speakerboxx/The Love Below (2003)
Outkast arriveed on the scene as a 21st century reincarnation of George Clinton’s Parliament-Funkadelic machine, with equal parts fashion and funkiness. Their double album Speakerboxxx/The Love Below won the Grammy for Best Album, edging out the White Stripes, Justin Timberlake and Missy Elliot. It featured the infectious “The Way You Move” and the ubiquitous “Hey Ya,” whose refrain “shake it like a Polaroid picture” was so popular that the camera manufacturer issued a statement warning people not to do that unless they wanted to ruin their photos. We’re pretty sure nobody listened.
4. Tom Waits, Alice/Blood Money (2002)
Over three decades, Tom Waits has unveiled 21 records and almost as many personae, from folky bluesman to lounge piano act to carnival barker to movie star. He’s also the songwriter behind one of our favorite covers album of all time, John Hammond’s Wicked Grin. Back in 2002, he released a pair of soundtracks for plays inspired by literary classics. Alice is based on a play inspired by the relationship between Lewis Carroll and Alice Liddell, the original inspiration for Alice in Wonderland. Blood Money features songs written for the play Wozyck, unfinished when author George Büchner died in 1837, remade many times since on stage and screen, and re-adapted by Robert Wilson, who also directed Alice.
Tom Waits – Alice
Tom Waits – Coney Island Baby
3. Joanna Newsom, Have One on Me (2010)
Ok this one is actually a triple album. That takes guts, especially when you play the harp and sing like a warbly pixie. Moreover, the songs on Have One on Me are so long, there are only six per disc. (The title track is nearly 11 minutes). Somehow, Newsom pulls off the feat. She meanders and moans, with her harp and voice backed by horn and string arrangements and lusher instrumentation that previous records. And in typical offbeat fashion, she announced the record via comic strip. No wonder, she landed the #2 spot in FP’s Top 5 American Women
2. Flaming Lips, Embryonic (2009)
If today’s topic were quadruple albums, the prize would go to the Flaming Lips’ Zareika, a collection of four albums meant to be played simultaneously on four stereos. Bonus points awarded if this sonic experiment occurs at a party in Jersey City. Instead, we give the honors to the Flaming Lips’ Embryonic, a double album that includes contributions from MGMT and Karen O, who happens to head the list of FP’s Top 5 American Women. This summer, the Lips are back on the road, with high- profile shows at Bonnaroo and the Central Park Summerstage.
1. Deerhunter, Microcastle/Weird Era Cont. (2008)
Recorded as two separate albums, Microcastle and Weird Era Cont. were bundled together after the latter accidentally leaked online. We consider the two records of a piece, unified by the pop sensibility, the shimmer and fuzz of the guitars, and the haunting voice of Bradford Cox.
Deerhunter, Agoraphobia (from Microcastle)
Deerhunter, Never Stops (from Microcastle)
Deerhunter, Operation (from Weird Era Cont.)
Apparently, there are still some artists who believe in the power of the music video. Broken Bells (the collaborative project between Shins’ frontman James Mercer and the ubiquitous Danger Mouse) released their debut this March, and since then they have been in full-on promotion mode. The band has focused no small amount of effort on creating buzz for their forthcoming video for the song “The Ghost Inside:”
Broken Bells – The Ghost Inside
They began by recently creating the rather cryptic website Visit Planet BB114, which other than that BB makes no reference to the band and contains only this brief video:
Then, the announcement yesterday that that martini will be sipped by Christina Hendricks (of Mad Men fame), a woman so hot that her name should end in X. Hendricks has been getting a great deal of attention lately, including being named Esquire’s Sexiest Woman Alive. She will be playing a “beautiful android” in the video; in other news, the idea for this video was conceived by a man.
Time was when the buzz surrounding a forth-coming music video could be deafening. While videos began as mere promotional tools, they became ends in themselves in the early 1990s when what were once highly-edited concert films gave way to big-budget epics. Blockbuster-level hype soon followed, and upcoming or just-released videos were topics of fervent discussion at high school cafeterias and student lounges nationwide.
Then, for reasons discussed before, everything changed. Videos stopped looking like short films and started looking like blooper reels, which, while still amusing, must disappoint aspiring Spike Jonzes and Michel Gondrys everywhere.
While it would be excessive to suggest that the presence of such an “It Girl” in an upcoming video heralds some sort of renaissance, perhaps it will garner some well-deserved attention for the commercially struggling form. Regardless of the results, however, great videos will continue to made, even if they are seldom watched. Don’t believe us? See below:
Justice – D.A.N.C.E. (2007)
Bat For Lashes – What’s a Girl to Do (2007)
Radiohead – House of Cards (2008)