Thursday, December 24, 2009

Alright, here's my Top 50 Albums of the Decade.

1. Animal Collective - Sung Tongs
2. Broken Social Scene - You Forgot it in People
3. Panda Bear - Person Pitch
4. PJ Harvey - Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea
5. Sleater-Kinney - The Woods
6. LCD Soundsystem - LCD Soundsytem
7. Radiohead - In Rainbows
8. Neko Case - Fox Confessor Brings the Flood
9. The National - Alligator
10. TV on the Radio - Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes
11. The Walkmen - You & Me
12. Interpol - Turn on the Bright Lights
13. Band of Horses - Everything All The Time
14. Grizzly Bear - Veckatimest
15. Spoon - Gimme Fiction
16. Hot Chip - The Warning
17. Radiohead - Kid A
18. M.I.A. - Kala
19. St. Vincent - Actor
20. Outkast - Stankonia
21. Stars - Set Yourself on Fire
22. Fleet Foxes - Sun Giant EP/Fleet Foxes
23. Hercules and Love Affair - Hercules and Love Affair
24. The Thermals - The Body, The Blood, The Machine
25. Postal Service - Give Up
26. Mates of State - Bring it Back
27. Modest Mouse - The Moon & Antarctica
28. Badly Drawn Boy - The Hour of Bewilderbeast
29. The Strokes - Is This It?
30. New Pornographers - Mass Romantic
31. Viktor Vaughn - Vaudeville Villain
32. The Shins - Chutes Too Narrow
33. Sufjan Stevens - Greetings from Michigan: The Great Lake State
34. The Rapture - Echoes
35. Junior Boys - So This is Goodbye
36. Bloc Party - Silent Alarm
37. Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
38. Kings of Leon - Aha Shake Heartbreak
39. Wilco - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
40. Royksopp - Melody A.M.
41. Menomena - Friend & Foe
42. Justin Timberlake - FutureSex/LoveSounds
43. The xx - xx
44. Feist - The Reminder
45. Dirty Projectors - Bitte Orca
46. Belle & Sebastian - The Life Pursuit
47. Jay-Z - Unplugged
48. Antony & the Johnsons - I Am a Bird Now
49. Le Loup - Family
50. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - Clap Your Hands Say Yeah

Mos Def review published on MxDwn!

Black gold mined from all over the world

There’s a lot to say about Mos Def’s The Ecstatic. It’s his best in years, if not ever. Everyone was disappointed (with due cause) in his last few releases, all of which made fans go ‘What the.. ?’ He was busy working on movies and other non-rap things, but where was his next Black Star or Black on Both Sides? Clearly he was fulfilling some contractual obligations but did we have to wait until Geffen let him go? Seems like it, and it was totally worth the wait.

Ecstatic is a statement: “I’m back, I never left, y’all ain’t shit and now I’m gonna show you how it’s done.” In so many words that I just put in his mouth. First off, this album is not a singles record. There are a few standouts that translate beautifully to keep a party poppin’ or dancefloor moving, namely “Twilite Speedball” and “Quiet Dog Bite Hard.” But everything flows so seamlessly; the interludes and found sounds are ingenious. From the Bollywood-influenced opener “Supermagic,” which features a ‘64 Malcolm X quote, to the cockpit-gun-toting-Captain intro to “The Embassy,” it’s with these that Ecstatic garners its well-deserved political descriptors. Mos has always had a curious fascination with injustice and Afrocentricism but it doesn’t always come off as nuanced and classy as it does here.

In fact, with the strongest track on the record, “Auditorium,” which tumbles into its hypnotic head-bobbing beat with a far east intro before Slick Rick delivers a syrupy smooth Iraq-oriented story, Mos delivers his most worldly message. Rick raps to a “young Iraqi kid”: “What’s wrong, G, hungry? / No, give me my oil and get the f#$* out my country!” Other collaborations shine on this record, too. “History,” with Talib Kweli is a standout and harkens back to his earlier days of late ’90s brainy hip hop. “Roses” features a lesser known Georgia Anne Muldrow from Stones Throw Records who kills a bluesy, heartfelt R&B vocal over tickly piano flourishes. Her Angie Stone-inspired soul brings Mos to a softer place where his voice begins to sound better than John Legend’s.

We may not see Mos like this again. His latest and possibly greatest is a momentous hip hop occasion. There are still hip hop artists making smart, nuanced, beat-smart records. We don’t have to pretend to get excited about new Lil’ Wayne records or scream about Jay-Z’s newest blueprint. Hopefully, Mos Def and his friends will keep turning out gems like this one.


Week's WORST! The Starting Line

It’s hard to root against local boys who’ve “made it” ... unless it’s a band like the Starting Line. Does Tallahassee rejoice when Creed rolls into town? Does Atlanta freak out when Collective Soul fills up the Tabernacle or Philips Arena? Possibly. Philly has certainly shown enough love to these central PA boys by buying every single ticket of their two “reunion” holiday shows. After three brutal records of power-emo-punk-pop, the band decided to give the world a breather from their insufferable brand of whine. Sure, they’ve toured with bigger versions of their painful sound like New Found Glory and Taking Back Sunday. But a Warped Tour does not a band make. It’s hard to believe there’s still a market for this horseshit. If Dashboard Confessional is the patriarch of emo, the Starting Line are their obnoxious, angsty teenagers.

Tues., Dec. 29, 8:30pm. Sold out. With Valencia + Dangerous Summer. Theatre of the Living Arts, 334 South St. 215.922.1011.

Wed., Dec 30, 8:30pm. Sold out. With Envy on the Coast + Algernon Cadwallader. Trocadero, 1003 Arch St. 215.922.6888.


30 Second Reviews from 12/22

Animal Collective
Be Fall Kind EP

SOUNDS LIKE: Indie kings do it again with a mere five songs in under 30 minutes adding another staple to their catalogue
FREE ASSOCIATION: Intoxicating blend of beats, rounds, collage, choral chanting and noise
FOR FANS OF: Grizzly Bear, Gang Gang Dance, Panda Bear

Live at XX Merge

SOUNDS LIKE: Lovely romp through the Nashville band's collection of soulful, folksy Americana led by a charming Kurt Wagner
FREE ASSOCIATION: That voice, those lyrics, all those instruments, such energy; a keeper
FOR FANS OF: My Morning Jacket, Silver Jews, whiskey

James Pants
Seven Seals

SOUNDS LIKE: Awesome electronic music heavily shaded with drone, nostalgia, hip hop and cleverly whispered smart lyrics
FREE ASSOCIATION: Another Stones Throw gem; 15 tracks of blissed out clever trip hop
FOR FANS OF: Neon Indian, DJ Shadow, grime

Mason Porter
Thunder in the Valley

SOUNDS LIKE: Full-length debut from West Chester boys pickin', clappin', stompin' and singin' some solid bluegrassy folk
FREE ASSOCIATION: Hard to believe they're from the Philly burbs, not the Smoky Mountains
FOR FANS OF: Hoots & Hellmouth, Wissahickon Chicken Shack

Bill Cosby Presents the Cosnarati
State of Emergency

SOUNDS LIKE: Believe it - the Cos co-writes and produces an ultra-legit hip hop record addressing his political/cultural woes
FREE ASSOCIATION: Ced Gee, Jace the Great and Bro Hahz rep hard for Mr. Puddin' Pop
FOR FANS OF: Lyrics Born, political rap, garish sweaters

Thirty Seconds to Mars
This Is War

SOUNDS LIKE: Jared Leto's band is a ridiculous blend of prog metal, emo, pop, aggro rock and screamo (plus eyeliner)
FREE ASSOCIATION: It does feel like more of an effort to not be shitty, but it's tough to take
FOR FANS OF: Chevelle, Deftones, Jordan Catalano

Shock Value II

SOUNDS LIKE: Timbo employs an ultra pop army to shine in front of his tired hiccupy beats that all sound like "4 Minutes"/FutureSex
FREE ASSOCIATION: JoJo & Timberlake, yes, Miley Cyrus & Chad Kroeger? You dick!
FOR FANS OF: Neptunes, Swizz Beats, Jermaine Dupri

Chris Brown

SOUNDS LIKE: The once R&B prince currently in the dog house puts down some bagnin' joints and some yawny slow jamz
FREE ASSOCIATION: PR-wise? Rihanna wins. Record vs. record? Chris might take this one
FOR FANS OF: "I Can Transform Ya," Lil Wayne, the club


30 Second Reviews from 12/15


SOUNDS LIKE: Synthy '70s-style funk mixed with '00s soul/hip hop from an LA producer in with Stones Throw peeps
FREE ASSOCIATION: George Clinton and Grace Jones bore a child who wears aviators
FOR FANS OF: Prince x Knife + P-Funk/Kraftwerk

The Mayfair Set
Young One

SOUNDS LIKE: Noise pop's Dum Dum Girls teams up with Blank Dogs for low-fi psychedelics spiked with goth
FREE ASSOCIATION: Bat For Lashes girl sings for Joy Division and back in the '80s, not now
FOR FANS OF: Vivian Girls, Black Tambourine, feedback


SOUNDS LIKE: Droney electric eerie bliss from Portishead's Geoff Barrow heavy on the spooky and rhythms
FREE ASSOCIATION: Starts slow and steady but eventually blows you away in due time
FOR FANS OF: Clinic, Massive Attack, Radiohead

Paul McCartney
Good Evening New York City

SOUNDS LIKE: Shea Stadium was torn down, they built Citi(group) Field and brought this old man out to make it meaningful
FREE ASSOCIATION: 35 songs on two discs and you let Billy Joel onstage, you bastard
FOR FANS OF: Wings, Greatest Hits albums, corporate fields

Richard Hawley
Truelove's Gutter

SOUNDS LIKE: Soft, sad and beautiful collection from the UK's ex-Pulp guitarist and baritone is single-less but flawless
FREE ASSOCIATION: If it weren't dark and cold this would be a downer, but it is, and it's amazing
FOR FANS OF: Elvis, Cash, Orbison, Hazlewood

Laura Veirs
July Flame

SOUNDS LIKE: Talented singer/songwriter/strummer's first in 2010 is a beauty with stellar guests to flesh out her sound
FREE ASSOCIATION: Her voice and a guitar is enough, but keys and strings make it gorgeous
FOR FANS OF: Cat Power, New Buffalo, Joanna Newsom,

Glee: The Music, Season One
Volume 2

SOUNDS LIKE: Covers by the Fox cast with some bearable (Lilly Allen, Lauper) and others just awful (Van Halen, Stones)
FREE ASSOCIATION: Needed: pubescent faces (and bodies) to make this listenable
FOR FANS OF: A capella, Zac Efron, musicals

Mikkel Meyer

SOUNDS LIKE: Club-friendly blipped out dub from a Danish DJ who loves British, Jamaican, and American hip hop
FREE ASSOCIATION: Imagine robots making their booty clap all sweaty and shiny
FOR FANS OF: Two Fingers, Thunderheist, Dizzee Rascal


30 Second Reviews from 12/8

The Embassadors
Coptic Dub

SOUNDS LIKE: Uncanny gorgeous jazz spiked with hip hop and dub; horns and ambiance barfed up by a DJ
FREE ASSOCIATION: If Coltrane and Tricky had a mutant love baby, it would be funky
FOR FANS OF: Dub jazz, Massive Attack on e

Bad Lieutenant
Never Cry Another Tear

SOUNDS LIKE: New Order oldie teams up with youngns but their youth is drowned out; dated synthy, post-punk rock
FREE ASSOCIATION: You'd think a Joy Division-spawn record would be decent enough
FOR FANS OF: Reunions, nostalgia, emo U2

Home Blitz
Out of Phase

SOUNDS LIKE: Quirky herky-jerky off-kilter punk with weird pauses, messy guitars and loads of energy/balls
FREE ASSOCIATION: Did I hear a Fishtown? This show will be bloody and sweaty
FOR FANS OF: Pissed Jeans, breaking things

The Slew

SOUNDS LIKE: Kid Koala and Dynamite D scratch up a Seattle-inspired grunge rock band into slick turntable hip hop
FREE ASSOCIATION: Plaid-laden booze and spooge was spilled and then scratched up
FOR FANS OF: DJ Shadow, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Rated R

SOUNDS LIKE: The moan-songstress is as her sassiest with a lot of cussing and proclaiming how hot she is
FREE ASSOCIATION: Keep spinnin' that domestic abuse scandal into gold, girl, get it
FOR FANS OF: Beyonce, Mary J., Chris Brown hate

Jay Sean
All or Nothing

SOUNDS LIKE: Urban pretty boy wears chains, takes his shirt off and croons very seriously about making girls cum
FREE ASSOCIATION: We see you're trying to take Craig David's spot and it might work
FOR FANS OF: Ginuwine, R Kelly, thin sculpted sideburns

Adam Lambert
For Your Entertainment

SOUNDS LIKE: Super-produced monstrosity of pop with ballads, dancefloor grinders, schmaltz and in-your-face queer glam
FREE ASSOCIATION: Racing towards Liberace status, are we? Not sure that's smart
FOR FANS OF: Britney, Christina, Lady Gaga

Jack Splash
Heir to the Throne, Volume 1

SOUNDS LIKE: Plantlife emcee's got a dirty mouth/mind, bloodshot eyes, tons of swagger and some sick guests
FREE ASSOCIATION: This is Cadillac hip hop with all the trimmings and accessories
FOR FANS OF: Clipse, Outkast, 40s and blunts


30 Second Reviews from 12/1

Kid Sister

SOUNDS LIKE: Debut with Kanye collab, "Pro Nails," might be the record's worst, but Cee-Lo and Estelle show up!
FREE ASSOCIATION: Not sure if she weren't A-Trak's girlfriend she'd even have a record
FOR FANS OF: Santigold, Destiny's Child, raplettes

Daptone Gold
Daptone Gold

SOUNDS LIKE: Tight-knit BKLYN label curates rarities, B-sides and greatest hits of members' stellar soul and funk
FREE ASSOCIATION: Some serious James Brown-inspired modern soul; get down!
FOR FANS OF: Antibalas, Sharon Jones, horns

The Apple and the Tooth

SOUNDS LIKE: Brit beat freak blends folk and glitchy electro; a few new tunes and a bunch of Ambivalence Avenue remixes
FREE ASSOCIATION: Like a Boards of Canada record immersed in a hot tub until it's wrinkly
FOR FANS OF: The Books, Four Tet, M83, Aphex Twin

Echo & The Bunnymen
The Fountain

SOUNDS LIKE: Celebrating their 30th year, the UK foursome put out lukewarm post-punk, new wavey college rock
FREE ASSOCIATION: Once upon a time you were a big deal, but this is like bad Coldplay/U2
FOR FANS OF: New Order vs. butched up Cure

John Mayer
Battle Studies

SOUNDS LIKE: The big-lipped adult contemporary guru pushes the envelope with literate and mild sad sap guitar rock
FREE ASSOCIATION: Love really is a battlefield, John, but Twitter is going to end you
FOR FANS OF: Dave Matthews, Train, James Blunt


SOUNDS LIKE: Montreal's Mike Silver is a producer extraordinaire making rich, chill and infectious electrodub
FREE ASSOCIATION: Disco and modern beats make lounge love during his "Big Love" cover
FOR FANS OF: Crystal Castles, Sally Shapiro

Priscilla Renea

SOUNDS LIKE: Polished, shiny pop queen with drum machines and voice effects makes weirdly irresistable radio hits
FREE ASSOCIATION: A monster created from bits of Kelly Clarkson, Lily Allen and Rihanna
FOR FANS OF: Katy Perry, shamelessness

Light FM
Let There Be Light FM

SOUNDS LIKE: Chicago indie rock heavy on synths, keys, '80s guitars and angst making for a very boring record
FREE ASSOCIATION: Your cheeky lyrics are drowned out by that constantly blaring synthesizer
FOR FANS OF: The Cars, Owl City, cheesy Death Cab


Friday, November 27, 2009

Lame visual, but just listen.

New Animal Collective EP!!

Cyclists beware, the world is out to get us.

So it sounds like a couple people died in 'bicycle-related accidents' in October here in Philly. In all of the reports and news stories I've read about the subsequent bill these idiots are proposing, City Councilmen Frank DiCicco and Jim Kenney, there've been no details about these deaths. Were the people killed drunk and homeless, maybe? Did they jump in front of a cyclist? Nope. They leave us to imagine some malicious fixed-gear hipster careening through red lights.

There's a lot of bicycle hate in cities, Philly especially. No matter where you live, cars dominate. And cyclists are seen as threats to their total monopolization of the road. These councilmen want to up fines for riding on sidewalks ($10) and riding with headphones on ($3) to $300 each. That's a lot of money. I try to never ride on sidewalks. I try to ride the wrong way on one way streets only until the next street where I am a lawful and cautious biker all the way home. I often ride with one iPod bud in my right ear that plays softly so that I can still be very aware of my surroundings. I know that some people are vehemently against this, but I trust myself and I've been riding a bike in metropolitan areas for over five years now.

Oh, and it sounds like people ride bikes without brakes? Or take them off? They're proposing a $1,000 fine for that. Or a forfeiture of your bike.

They want us to register our bikes and get some kind of plates. Plates on bikes! It's a funny thought. It's also a horrendous bureaucratic nightmare that no one is prepared for. With hundreds of thousands of cyclists in Philly, it seems completely insane.

What do you think?

Does this excite you?

This movie cost about $500000000 billion dollars to make, I'm pretty sure.

The Slew - 100%

Kid Koala and Dynomite D spin ’70s grunge rock into turntable gold

In 1996, DJ Shadow dumped a bucket of freezing cold water over the shoulders of hip hop with a record of turntablism for the ages. Entroducing… changed the game. We may have been slapped in the face by the Beastie Boys’ Paul’s Boutique, Afrika Bambaataa, Kraftwerk or even De La Soul, but pure sampling and scratching had never sounded this funky. Chinese-Canadian Eric San is the scratch-master behind Kid Koala and half of the brains behind his brand new project The Slew. What Shadow did, San took to a similarly scratched and pasted place in 2000 with Kid Koala’s brilliant Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Seven years later, he and Dylan Frombach (aka Dynomite D) were asked to soundtrack a documentary about the Seattle psychedelic blues rock band by the same name. They were so inspired by their recording sessions with the legendary Mario Caldato Jr. that they are taking The Slew and running with it on 100%.

100% is a Seattle-inspired grunge record made from turntables and it’s going to blow people’s minds. They’ve assembled a dynamic backing band to accompany the recordings live. Former Wolfmother percussionist and bassist/keysman, Myles Heskett and Chris Ross, are set to provide stage support behind six turntables manned by San and Frombach themselves. Wolfmother’s ’70s love gels nicely with the dirty, grungy, bluesy rock that gushes forth from tracks like “Shackled Soul” and “Robbing Banks.” What Koala perfected by tweaking single notes of horns on tracks like “Skanky Panky” and “Drunk Trumpet,” he’s doing here with dramatic, glammed out guitar chords and feedback.

From the first rock howls and heavy guitar sludge of album opener “100%” to the deeply groovy finale of “Battle of Heaven and Hell,” The Slew are close to outperforming contemporaries like Cut Chemist, Dan the Automator and Danger Doom. Only whereas some DJs are looking around the next corner for inspiration or recycling old soul sounds and hip hop ground-breakers, Kid Koala and Dynomite D have found something in an obscure Seattle psych rock band. Using primarily looped spoken bits, shouts, beats and riffs that were transferred to vinyl, scratchable 33 1/3s, they’ve accomplished something so rich, complex and funky that their live show will be undoubtedly sweaty and head-bobbing.

The Real Deal.

30 Second Reviews from 11/24

Various Artists
5: Five Years of Hyperdub

SOUNDS LIKE: A collection and mission statement from London dub label; floaty, eerie rhythms to trip you out
FREE ASSOCIATION: A sick introduction to The Bug, Zomby, Burial, Darkstar and Code9
FOR FANS OF: Massive Attack, wordless Portishead, blunts

Them Crooked Vultures
Them Crooked Vultures

SOUNDS LIKE: The Dave Grohl/Josh Homme/John Paul Jones supergroup drops a beauty of chunky garage blues
FREE ASSOCIATION: It really is like a Zep, Foo and Queens a Stone Age record all in one!
FOR FANS OF: Mustachioed lip pursing, "Scumbag Blues"

The Clientele
Bonfires of the Heath

SOUNDS LIKE: A pop masterpiece of super-British dreamy arrangements from start to finish; brilliant breezy/peppy tunes
FREE ASSOCIATION: Like Belle & Sebastian with balls and fighting anyone who wants some
FOR FANS OF: Camera Obscura, modern Byrds

Chomp (More)

SOUNDS LIKE: DFA re-issue of 2nd and best LP of influential angular, industrial rock from early '80s Athens, GA
FREE ASSOCIATION: A short-lived run overshadowed by The B-52s and R.E.M. - bullshit
FOR FANS OF: Karen O sings for Gang of Four

Person L
The Positives

SOUNDS LIKE: PA boy Ken Vasoli, bass/pipes of The Starting Line, births an earnest, thumping indie rock record
FREE ASSOCIATION: No work of genius, just a solidly passionate and foot-tapping LP
FOR FANS OF: Andrew Bird, Ryan Adams, Jason Collett

We Are The Willows
A Collection of Sounds and Something Like the Plague

SOUNDS LIKE: Sad bastard Minnesotan strums his guitar and ukelele while whisper singing his angst over found noises
FREE ASSOCIATION: Everything that bothers us about Neutral Milk and Decemberists together
FOR FANS OF: Bon Iver on helium, Death Vessel

Real Estate
Real Estate

SOUNDS LIKE: Slouchy and lazy surf rock debut from Jersey is soaring instrumentals, soft drums and joy
FREE ASSOCIATION: Jersey is responsible for this? List it under the Boss and vegetables
FOR FANS OF: Feelies, Ducktails, suburban cruises

If On a Winter's Night...

SOUNDS LIKE: Lullabies, carols, madrigals and originals performed dreadfully by an aging hippie who loves Christmas
FREE ASSOCIATION: Listen to "Soul Cake" without laughing; SO FAR from his Police days
FOR FANS OF: Michael Buble, Celine Dion, Elton John


30 Second Reviews from 11/17

Mayer Hawthorne
A Strange Arrangement

SOUNDS LIKE: White soul goes for the gusto and nails it with ".. Work Out" but hits bedroom disco for most of the rest
FREE ASSOCIATION: Sometimes it feels like gems from the '50s, then it feels like '70s garbage
FOR FANS OF: Robin Thicke, Tom Jones, Mark Ronson

Pink Martini
Splendor in the Grass

SOUNDS LIKE: The lil' orchestra that could from Portland tones it down for a languid collection of international ballads
FREE ASSOCIATION: These songs could be plucked from the '20s and played at weddings
FOR FANS OF: Franz Schubert, the Jazz Age, Chicago

Asobi Seksu

SOUNDS LIKE: NY dream-pop practitioners deliver an acoustic rendering of songs that shouldn't be acoustically rendered
FREE ASSOCIATION: No matter it's recorded at Olympic Studios, too much of that voice
FOR FANS OF: Deerhoof, brutal Blonde Redhead

Taylor Hollingsworth
Life With a Slow Ear

SOUNDS LIKE: A hired hand for Conor's Mystic Valley Band, the guitarist's solo is a romping Alabama foot-stomper
FREE ASSOCIATION: You can play them strings, but singin' ain't your thing, someone help
FOR FANS OF: Dodos, Dylan, countrified blues

Norah Jones
The Fall

SOUNDS LIKE: She's finally left behind her schmaltzy piano girl act with a decent modern record that isn't a snoozefest
FREE ASSOCIATION: This is a long way from Come Away With Me and that's a good thing
FOR FANS OF: Aimee Mann, Melody Gardot, Diana Krall

Dark Meat
Truce Opium

SOUNDS LIKE: Athens, GA supergroup throws all kinds of horns, tambourines, sounds and psychedelia together
FREE ASSOCIATION: Exploding hearts and minds simultaneously with walls of sound
FOR FANS OF: Deerhunter, Phenomenal Handclap Band, indulgence

Robbie Williams
Reality Killed the Video Star

SOUNDS LIKE: The ego has landed again, and this time there's one catchy single ("Bodies") and a bunch of bollocks
FREE ASSOCIATION: Stick with pop jams, these ballads make you sound like Hedwig
FOR FANS OF: James Blunt, Boyzone, Take That

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club

SOUNDS LIKE: San Fran-bred friends' fifth release is a greatest hits harvested from some stellar European live sets
FREE ASSOCIATION: A nice introduction to BRMC and a good sign for the future
FOR FANS OF: Yeahs x 3, Brian Jonestown, Velvet Underground


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Friday, November 6, 2009

Murals story!

Philadelphia Murals

*Note: This is a story that has run in Charit'ee Magazine and this is the unedited version. The published version is not cut and pasteable. I'm throwing up a picture of my choosing, as well. The published version is beautifully accompanied by all kinds of art.

When I moved to South Philadelphia from Brooklyn last November, I started riding my bike to work in Center City almost everyday through the Italian Market along South 9th Street. Just before you hit Christian Street, sliding between cars and vendors selling fresh produce, you can't help but notice a massive mural of Frank Rizzo on the western side of the street. It's mostly just his face; a face that for many Philadelphians is unforgettable. He rose through the ranks of the Philadelphia Police Department starting in the 1940s to Police Commissioner in 1967-'71. On August 31, 1970, Rizzo's police officers raided the Black Panther Party's headquarters, days after the Panthers declared a war on Police Officers, and stripped members publicly in front of cameras. He also promoted and protected a lot of African American officers, 20% of his force in 1968, when race riots ripped apart L.A. and Detroit, but not Philly. Rizzo means a lot of things to a lot of Philly lifers, good and bad - he was just a big white face on the side of a wall to me until I started looking at the work of the Mural Arts Project (MAP). MAP is the driving force behind over 2,000 murals that cover buildings, roofs, houses and parking lots across the City of Brotherly Love.

The Rizzo memorial is mentionable because of the fact that the thousands of murals that decorate the city have a story behind them. There has been months and months of preparation, design and sometimes community-involvement, thousands of dollars, pounds of materials and hours of labor poured into every massive piece of public art. Philadelphians can even live and work in a neighborhood for months and years before they take the time to look 360 degrees around them and take in all the murals that blanket the exposed facades of buildings.

Arnetta is a legendary fixture at the front desk of Philadelphia Weekly. She's a wonderful black woman who loves her grandchildren and knows her Philly. I told her I was writing about murals and her face lit up. She has two favorites, both by Meg Saligman, "Common Threads" at Broad and Spring Garden and "The Theatre of Life" at Broad and Lombard. When I rode my bike down Spring Garden toward Broad Street I was facing the west when I saw the huge pairs of eyes that cover its main entrance and along its side. I dismounted, took some pictures and then I turned around. There it was, eight stories tall facing Broad Street from the east in front of a vacant barb-wire-topped parking lot - "Common Threads." A mix of modern imagery and antiquated, classical imagery, most everyone in some kind of pose or performance. It was one of the first murals, perhaps in part due to its size, location and level of sophistication, that turned murals into a respectful and welcome presence in Philly.

"'Common Threads' is probably our most recognizable," says Ryan Derfler, director of tours for MAP. "Jane [Golden, founder and director of MAP] likes to say that that was the one that really changed people's minds about murals." Derfler has been expanding MAP's tour programs since he took the position in October. There are the standard tours in antique trolleys with an experienced mural expert exposing riders to the history and significance of murals by neighborhood. The tours are in rotation by neighborhood: North Philly, West Philly, South Philly, and Center City. And, as Ryan explains, by touring murals you tour Philly's neighborhoods.

"In South Philly you see Frank Sinatra, Mario Lanza, Frank Rizzo," says Derfler. "You can look at the murals and see what's important to them. You go to North Philly and see Mexican nationals, the rainforest in Puerto Rico, they're really colorful. So a tour is really like getting to know each neighborhood" These murals are defined by and define neighborhoods. "You go to West Philly and you see the Will Smith mural, the Patta LaBelle mural. They were real proud of these people and they want to see them on a wall," he adds. Murals are about bringing art to the people, something muralists find particularly appealing, sometimes enough to leave the gallery completely behind.

"I enjoyed the inclusiveness of making art in a public space," says Eric Okdeh, a prominent muralist in Philadelphia and part of the winning design team behind one of MAP's big summer projects called This We Believe. "It's collaboration and community involvement and bringing art to the people." One of his biggest achievements is a mural at the site of the Elwyn Institute's Philadelphia branch on 41st and Market Streets in West Philly. Working with six different behavioral health organizations in Philly, Okdeh got nearly 200 people involved in the process: placing stained glass to form a sunflower, painting by number, and posing for photographs.

"The unfortunate part about mural-making is that you only see the mural," Okdeh adds. "You don't see the months of working with community." West Philadelphians living along the Elevated ('El') Train, the Market-Frankford line, have begun working with MAP and a former Philly resident, Steve Powers on another big project culminating this August called Love Letters. Powers was a graffiti artist at the age of 15, growing up in Philly and tagging his ESPO signature all over the city. MAP and Powers have begun speaking with residents about a project that will paint over rooftops and higher floors of buildings to create a love story between a young boy and girl riding the train. The story will unfold for train riders as they head west from 46th to 63rd Street and back east again.

Philadelphia is one-of-a-kind, being covered in murals. Jessica Kroboth, a dancer for a Philly company called Archdream for Humankind, just returned to Philly after a national tour and realized what an asset our murals are: "Chicago and L.A. had a few murals, but nothing like they are here. Philly is just unbelievable like that." With over 2,800 murals and probably closer to 3,000 by the end of the year, this MAP's 25th Anniversary, there are more murals than one resident could possibly see in a day, a month, a year. It's something that unravels for Philadelphians over time.

Not so nice review of Coheed and Cambria on - jus' bein' real.

Coheed and Cambria – Good Apollo, I’m Burning Star IV, Volume Two: No World for Tomorrow

(Emo + Metal x Butt Rock)/Prog Rock = Just Too Much

Coheed and Cambria are to rock music as Dungeons & Dragons enthusiasts are to the gaming community. Nerdy and weird, they’re a little over the top but not in a brazen, flashy kind of way. They’re more so in a no-haircuts, disgustingly decorated bedroom kind of way. The title of this record, their final piece of a prog-rock opera, is a mouthful: Good Apollo, I’m Burning Star IV, Volume Two: No World for Tomorrow. Only Coheed and Cambria fans can appreciate this dramatically epic rock opus.

These boys dwell in dangerous territory, mixing some tough genres to get into, namely prog rock, metal, emo, pop and punk. Pop/punk artisans are regularly booed by all with taste (Sum 41, Fall Out Boy, etc.). Prog rock had its heyday with Rush and Queensryche and the power pop of Queen echoing in Good Apollo had its moment in the ’70s. So how can a band successfully fold these elements into a late ’00s rock record? These Nyack, NY boys give it their all.

Claudio Sanchez, the group’s primary set of pipes, often channels Rush’s Geddy Lee with his high-pitched, warble-y vocals. Unfortunately, he also ends up sounding like an amped-up Rob Thomas. Singles and standouts are apparent: “The Hound (Of Blood and Rank),” “Feathers” and “The Running Free,” are tolerable but forgettable.

The dueling lead guitars, thundering synths, shrill singing and head banging pace are all just a little too much. It’s hard to wrap your head around everything you’re hearing, which is similar to the content. If you haven’t heard previous records in this cycle, you wouldn’t know that this record is about “family, homicide and apocalypse.” You can’t really decipher this from lyrical delivery or song titles either. The last five tracks are a ridiculous series of “The End Complete I – V: The Fall of House Atlantic, Radio Bye Bye, The End Complete, The Road and the Damned, and On the Brink.” No one marvels over rock operas anymore. The Who did it best with Tommy forty years ago. We want singles and records that are cohesive, not records that require listening to four other records and reading the liner notes just to get what’s going on.

Good Apollo is not completely devoid of clarity, but like the dark and stormy skies Coheed and Cambria seem to anticipate, it kind of ruins the day.


HOORAY! A Week's Worst!

There’s nothing more exciting than watching two hipster dudes in hoodies bop and groove like deranged pigeons to their own self-gratifying noise while shyly peaking out behind unkempt bangs. Because, really, who needs perfectly played pop? Or head-bobbing hip-hop. What we need now is louder-than-necessary noise derived from too-cool kids tweaking knobs and turning dials in a box full of pedals. Fuck Buttons fit the bill. Their post-postness and scratchy, screechy assault of synths and percussion hypnotize. They do away with all the old rules, and have made their own. Like this one: Songs should be 10 to 12 minutes long, and they should be unlistenable. That’s why Pitchfork, NME, Mojo, Uncut and more have given them solid hand jobs. If you don’t get it, you’re a moron. A moron with taste. 

Tues., Nov. 3rd, 8pm. $10. With Growing. Kung Fu Necktie, 1248 N. Front St. 215.291.4919.


30 Second Reviews from 11/3

The Mountain Goats
The Life of the World to Come

SOUNDS LIKE: John Darnielle loves the bible but not really God, he's stopped whining/yelping and it's beautiful
FREE ASSOCIATION: A lil' Alt-Christian but he also chants the Crishna and won't preach
FOR FANS OF: Old R.E.M., indie folk, fables

The Very Best
Warm Heart of Africa

SOUNDS LIKE: Really real African electro-pop despite the presence of Ezra Koenig and M.I.A.; it's in Swahili/Portuguese!
FREE ASSOCIATION: If World music is a dangerous disease, this is the antidote
FOR FANS OF: Blk Jks, Vampy Weekend, internationalism

What We All Come to Need

SOUNDS LIKE: Instrumental post-rock practitioners who make rad noisy droney epic songs of rhythm, guitar and bass
FREE ASSOCIATION: Most instrumental rock is too boring; this makes you tap n' move
FOR FANS OF: Isis, Neurosis, Tool

Dead Man's Bones
Dead Man's Bones

SOUNDS LIKE: Dreamy Ryan Gosling's dark folk project using an LA kids choir with ghostly themes right before Halloween!
FREE ASSOCIATION: Most actor bands are a joke, this is a well-done and pleasant surprise
FOR FANS OF: Arcade Fire, The Notebook, Half Nelson

Blue Record

SOUNDS LIKE: Second LP of sludgy, melodic metal from Georgia boys who like indie rock more than other men of metal
FREE ASSOCIATION: Not sure why more metalists don't use soft and lovely interludes like this
FOR FANS OF: Mastadon, Sunny Day Real Estate, beards

BK-One with Benzilla
Radio Do Canibal

SOUNDS LIKE: Ridonculous slew of guests, mainstream to underground, on Brother Ali's DJ and Twin Cities MC Benzilla's mixtape
FREE ASSOCIATION: Oh snap, Black Thought's "Philly Boy" is smooth as silk
FOR FANS OF: Ol' school Outkast, melodic smart hip hop

Simian Mobile Disco
Temporary Pleasure

SOUNDS LIKE: Brit beat producers' second proper LP with some serious guests; electro with some depth n' hooks
FREE ASSOCIATION: Beth Ditto? Check. Jamie Lidell, cool. Alexis Taylor from Hot Chip? SICK.
FOR FANS OF: LCD Soundsystem, Hercules & Love Affair, ecstasy

Neon Indian
Psychic Chasms

SOUNDS LIKE: Delicious pop pastiche of nostalgia for an era us kids barely remember but love to reproduce
FREE ASSOCIATION: Synths and blurry vocals times cut and paste plus bedroom disco
FOR FANS OF: Empire of the Sun, MGMT, Air France


30 Second Reviews from 10/28

Sufjan Stevens

SOUNDS LIKE: Sufjan has freakin' lost us with this one; a big, complex, brainy orchestral tribute to the NY freeway
FREE ASSOCIATION: Dude, give us another state record for Chrissakes
FOR FANS OF: The orchestra, the philharmonic, driving

Alec Ounsworth
Mo Beauty

SOUNDS LIKE: Clap Your Hands frontman/warbler teams up with a brass band for a New Orleans-influenced solo project
FREE ASSOCIATION: "South Philadelphia (Drug Days)"? This song totally effing rules!
FOR FANS OF: CYHSY, Antony & the Johnsons, Bjork

Atlas Sound

SOUNDS LIKE: Deerhunter frontman genius' beautiful mess of fuzzy rock includes a kickass collab with Noah Lennox
FREE ASSOCIATION: Keep up the lanky weirdness, Cox, especially if it yields this gem
FOR FANS OF: Animal Collective, Deerhunter, joy

Lightning Bolt
Earthly Delights

SOUNDS LIKE: RI boys' fifth is a post-rock thrasher of balls-to-the-wall drums, guitar, reverb, energy and sparse vocals
FREE ASSOCIATION: Warning - this record may induce welcome rock seizures
FOR FANS OF: Black Dice, Japanther, volume

Kings of Convenience
Declaration of Dependence

SOUNDS LIKE: The Norwegian whisper-rockers' third album is another simple, strummy, slightly hokey indie folk masterpiece
FREE ASSOCIATION: The only percussion is guitar slapping, so hushed it is
FOR FANS OF: Belle & Sebastian kissing Simon & Garfunkel

The Conformist

SOUNDS LIKE: NYU dropout and piano man's whispery and sorta-sad record of indie rock with superstar supporting guests
FREE ASSOCIATION: What? Speak up, can't hear you. Oh, you're said and artsy, got it.
FOR FANS OF: Sufjan Stevens, Chris Garneau

Brother Ali

SOUNDS LIKE: The Twin Cities Albino maverick's sophomore is a soulful, intelligent and damn smooth hip hop record
FREE ASSOCIATION: Inspired by classics like KRS-One and Rakim and it shows
FOR FANS OF: Atmosphere, Cee-Lo, Blackalicious

Brooke Waggoner
Go Easy Little Doves

SOUNDS LIKE: Sophomore from Nashville's classically-trained pianist plus orchestrated help of woodwinds and strings
FREE ASSOCIATION: That pretty voice doesn't disguise the fact that this record is 'Faith-inspired'
FOR FANS OF: Christian Cat Power, Regina Spektor


30 Second Reviews from 10/21

Grand Archives
Keep In Mind Frankenstein

SOUNDS LIKE: Carissa's Weird gave us Band of Horses, now Mat Brooke's baby is a Sub Pop gem of pretty alt-country folk rock
FREE ASSOCIATION: These records make us want to move to WA state. Rain? Whatever.
FOR FANS OF: B of H, CSNY, Fleet Foxes

Only Built 4 Cuban Linx... Pt. II

SOUNDS LIKE: One of Wu's alum follows up his '95 Cuban Linx with dankness: nutzo guests, production, rhymes and swagger
FREE ASSOCIATION: Cruisin' on the B.Q.E. with blunts, drenched in ice and packin' heat
FOR FANS OF: RZA, Method Man, Cappadonna, O.D.B.

Chuck Prophet
¡Let Freedom Ring!

SOUNDS LIKE: SoCal veteran's still goin' strong; lo-fi countrified folk rock 20 years after his debut and he's aging well
FREE ASSOCIATION: Sure, Americana can be a tiresome tag to avoid, this has got heart
FOR FANS OF: Tom Petty x Lyle Lovett

The Pantones
Inside The Sun's Wild Flame

SOUNDS LIKE: It could be from Nashville but comes from Michigan with lush arrangements: steel guitar, horns, organs
FREE ASSOCIATION: Solidly earnest Americana with dabs of country and folk
FOR FANS OF: The Band, not garbage country

The Temper Trap

SOUNDS LIKE: Strong debut of Aussie rockers well-produced by UK's Jim Abiss (Arctic Monkeys); pop rock that will fill arenas
FREE ASSOCIATION: Amazing how a band can be influenced by U2 and not totally blow
FOR FANS OF: Early Coldplay, fun Arcade Fire

The Elms
The Great American Midrange

SOUNDS LIKE: Indiana Christians' fifth, a follow-up to Chess Hotel, is good for Religiorock but it's cheesy and dreadful
FREE ASSOCIATION: You should hear this song "County Fair," hilariously terrible
FOR FANS OF: Jonas Brothers + John Mellencamp

Anti-Pop Consortium
Fluorescent Black

SOUNDS LIKE: Underground hip-hop foursome (Beans, High Priest, M. Sayyid, Earl Blaize); smart, ambient, artsy beats
FREE ASSOCIATION: Love it when smart lyricsts and beat-makers take it to a higher level
FOR FANS OF: Dr. Octagon, El-P, glitchy Madvillain


SOUNDS LIKE: Born from Stephen Stills' solo stuff, their third is their first in 36 years; exactly like a CSN album but less charming
FREE ASSOCIATION: Somebody get this man the internet; only old people are listenin'
FOR FANS OF: Deja Vu, Woodstock, protest songs


Wednesday, October 14, 2009



Japandroids live at the Barbary

Sometimes it seems like the world is out to get you, doesn’t it? Japandroids were given about 45 minutes before Barbary’s YachtRock party took precedence at 9:15pm to put on a barreling rock show. But their tour’s theme “Everything is Fucked” reared its ugly head last night. “Par for the course,” guitarist and primary screamer Brian King explained as sound man Joe got his mic up and running after it blew. Maybe it’s Philly that has it out for the Vancouver, BC lo-fi guitar and drums duo. The last time JPNDRDS were in Philly their amp exploded on stage and they had to buy another one “down the street so we could continue the tour.”

Nevertheless, King and his kickass drummer David Prowse managed fill the room with their blasting, energetic fuzzy garage sound. Opening their set with the aptly chosen “No Allegiance to the Queen” from their Lullaby Death Jams EP with the opening “We need aiiiiiirrrrrr” howl felt fitting. It was our first chance to hear King really wail and, boy, can he. He can go loud, harsh, long and, well, he must know how to fill those lungs and let em’ out right.

The all-ages no-booze crowd seemed about right: teenage angst was present and at the front of the stage screaming back almost every lyric and moshing a little at the singles. “The Boys Are Leaving Town”—the high-energy drum-rolling anthemic opener to their first full LP Post-Nothing—was no disappointment. King gets really into it, jumping around, whipping his hair along with his spastic playing, jumping onto the platform in front of Prowse’s drumset to wave his guitar around and up in his buddy’s face. It was endearing. When sound was not an issue King let out intermittent “Wooooo!”s and “Yeah!”s between bouts of guitar-trashing.

After a new, slower song, they did “Rockers East Vancouver,” a song the drummer sings and it killed. After “Cold as Ice,” a favorite of mine from Post-Nothing with the lyric “Your heart as cold as ice/ I should know/ I’ve been to the North Pole,” they dove into “Darkness On The Edge of Gastown” from Lullaby. An angrier tune with a “Tell her!” reprise.

Unfortunately, this is where the shit started to hit the fan. This was our longest pause to figure out technical difficulties where the drummer was forced to entertain us with chit-chat while King’s mic got fixed. “Does anybody here like parties?” he asked sheepishly. “Can you tell us where to get a good cheesesteak?” he asked to shouts of “Tony Luke’s!” before a “Jim’s! Jim’s! Jim’s!” chant broke out.

We thought we were good to go again when they ripped into the single, “Young Hearts Spark Fire.” The crowd was pumped. “OK, here we go for a rousing second wind.” No. Mic went out again. “Start again!” came shouted from the crowd. After another pause for sound help, we were back on track for them to finally wail out the single like it should be. “I don’t wanna worry about dyin’/ I just wanna worry about sunshine girls,” never sounded so good.

It seems like the air was pretty much let out of the room, though. Being nice Canadians they apologized profusely, and informed us they had time for only one more song. “Crazy Forever” was the overwhelming request from the crowd, so they ended with it. And it ruled. Next time they tour maybe they’ll be as big as No Age or Vivian Girls and get their asses to Johnny Brenda’s or the Church to put on a proper face-melting set. But it was good while it lasted.

By Bill “The Shit” Chenevert, PW music intern and Real Boss Hoss.


30 Second Reviews from 10/14

Mind Chaos

SOUNDS LIKE: Portland, OR new wavey rock quartet (plus a fifth keys guy) with buzz and a dumb band name, music's alright/almost disco
Free Association: We think these guys don't play hockey, maybe NHL 94 on SNES
For Fans Of: LCD Soundsystem, Phoenix, Strokes

The Lovemakers
Let's Be Friends

SOUNDS LIKE: High energy electrified pop rock that blends bands that shouldn't be blended: Tegan & Sara meets Avirl LaVigne plus Blink 182
Free Association: Their debut was much more fun, this, their third, not so good
For Fans Of: Ladytron maybe? Hard K Clarkson?

The Dutchess & The Duke

SOUNDS LIKE: Dark folk from Seattle goin' back to the days of Leonard Cohen and Dylan with simple, strummy songs filled out by organs and drums
Free Association: This isn't your dad's folk but it's not yours either
For Fans Of: Belle and Sebastian, Joan Baez

Basement Jaxx

SOUNDS LIKE: The UK duo drops another dose of weirdo electric but stepping up their game with guests: Santigold, Sam Sparro, Yo Majesty, and Kelis
Free Association: If you took away the guest vocals, it'd just be shit euro disco beats
For Fans Of: Daft Punk, M.I.A., raves

Jamie T.
Kings & Queens

Sounds Like: Brilliant South Londoner dubbed a one-man-Arctic-Monkey has high energy hooks, quick delivery and loads of talent
Free Association: There's a nice touch of hip hop glazed over his punishing lyricism
For Fans Of: Strokes meets Dizzee Rascal, Beasties

Fool's Gold
Fool's Gold

SOUNDS LIKE: Delightful debut of L.A. collective specializing in afro-pop but not in the trendy way, this is world music from America with Hebrew singing
Free Association: Born of barbecues and backyards, this is joyous sunny times on disc
For Fans Of: Authentic Vampire Weekend, Blk Jks


SOUNDS LIKE: Philly quintet's third LP of acid folk is a variety pack of weird influences: baroque, traditional folk, prog, and jazz improv
Free Association: The milk-eyed mender has taken too many pills and she's pissed
For Fans Of: Donovan meets Tool, Joanna Newsom

Crash Love

SOUNDS LIKE: Surprisingly not terrible post-punk power rock from bad-haired Californians eschewing the pitfalls of emo, barely
Free Association: So many bands do it 100x worse than you, so points for that
For Fans Of: Rise Against, Pennywise, tattoos


30 Second Reviews from 10/7


SOUNDS LIKE: Two druggy 29 year olds making ethereal California pop with asides in garage and psychedlia and it's as dank as their herb
FREE ASSOCIATION: Good thing you ran away from your Children of God childhood
FOR FANS OF: Ariel Pink, Holy Shit!, No Age

Wild Beasts
Two Dancers

SOUNDS LIKE: Quirky, breezy indie rock from Britain with equal moments of lightly bouncy and theatrically dramatic; quite good, cheerio
FREE ASSOCIATION: The lady voice, Hayden Thorpe, has a Kate Bush thing goin' on
FOR FANS OF: Happier Antony & Johnsons + Queen

The Hidden Cameras
Origin: Orphan

SOUNDS LIKE: The gay boys from Canada fill out their sound some taking queer political ditties and making them big, dark and symphonic
FREE ASSOCIATION: I miss the simpler days of "Boys of Melody" and "Awoo"
FOR FANS OF: Magnetic Fields, gayer Belle & Sebastian

Time to Die

SOUNDS LIKE: The San Fran duo's third and follow-up to the effing amazing "Visiter" is a slightly calmer version of their guitar/drums explosiveness
FREE ASSOCIATION: Yup, pretty much screwed yourself with that badass sophomore
FOR FANS OF: Vampire Weekend, slow Animal Collective

Amy Milan
Masters of the Burial

SOUNDS LIKE: A soft and spare collection of simple folksy songs from our Stars girl, usually just her and a guitar with splashes of country and blues
FREE ASSOCIATION: She's got a cute transmitter lodged in her vocal chords
FOR FANS OF: Broken Social Scene, slow Metric

Love 2

SOUNDS LIKE: A slowed down version of the Frenchies' electronic futuristic space pop crafted for lounging, soundtracks and making love
FREE ASSOCIATION: Dippin' into the red wine, haven't you? Or you're turning 40, or both!
FOR FANS OF: Boards of Canada, Phoenix/Daft Punk

Kurt Vile
Childish Prodigy

SOUNDS LIKE: Local boy done good with this epic rock record that is somehow punk and pop, sloppy and neat, harsh and sweet at the same time
FREE ASSOCIATION: Behind all that distortion and reverb lies a romantic gentleman
FOR FANS OF: M. Ward x J Cash + My Bloody Valentine

Chicken Switch

SOUNDS LIKE: Experimental remixes of the post-punk minimalists that range from dancy electro to unlistenable grindy, crunchy noise
FREE ASSOCIATION: What the hell is that... Is something wrong with my stereo?
FOR FANS OF: Brian Eno PISSED/on acid


30 Second Reviews from 9/30

The Black Heart Procession

SOUNDS LIKE: The droney, dramatic indie rock powerhouses drop their much-anticipated Sixth but it’s slower, darker and moodier than ever before
FREE ASSOCIATION: This definitely requires black; all black, dye, denim, makeup
FOR FANS OF: Explosions in the Sky + sleeping pills

Turbo Fruits
Echo Kid

SOUNDS LIKE: Be Your Own Pet spin-off that’s a trio from Tennessee - sloppy and chunky, bluesy and rambunctious, thrashy and a little much
FREE ASSOCIATION: There are just so many other bands that do this better than you
FOR FANS OF: Monotonix down a notch, Black Keys

Orenda Fink
Ask The Night

SOUNDS LIKE: Azure Ray singer’s second solo effort is a beautifully sad and tender collection of spooky southern and bluegrass heart-wrenchers
FREE ASSOCIATION: You must’ve had a lot of heart-ache to be singing like this
FOR FANS OF: Neko Case, Loretta Lynn, Beth Orton

All My Friends Are Funeral Singers

SOUNDS LIKE: Chicago’s folk rock outfit has given us another gem of experimental bluesy indie rock infused with starry-night country western flavors
FREE ASSOCIATION: This is what happens with Funeral Singer Friends? I need some
FOR FANS OF: DeVotchka, Will Oldham, campfires

Royal Bangs
Let It Beep

SOUNDS LIKE: Tennessee boys with a buzz to them whose second LP is a super-listenable blend of arty, proggy, electro-garage rock that the kids are gonna love
FREE ASSOCIATION: Add a dash of trendy folk art and a tour with label-mates Drummer, you rich
FOR FANS OF: Radiohead, Passion Pit, Hot Chip

Karl Blau

SOUNDS LIKE: Weird white boy from Washington’s a producer and man of many bands, but this is a great record of jazzy, quirky, rhythmic compositions of freak folk rock
Free Association: Hoped that crazy record cover would a good sign; and it is
FOR FANS OF: Beck, Brazil, bossa nova

Kill Hannah
Wake Up The Sleepers

SOUNDS LIKE: Shiny, plastic-wrapped emo power rock from Chicago who did indeed get their name from a romance gone bad and presumably all of their romances are still going bad
FREE ASSOCIATION: Hard to imagine who still listens to this ish; Papa Roach fans?
FOR FANS OF: Chevelle, HIM, Dashboard

Feel Good Together

SOUNDS LIKE: The Black Keys drummer brings together other drummers to not play the drums, too, and you can pretty much tell; it’s a decent but not great record
FREE ASSOCIATION: Those drum kit microphones might be giving you the wrong idea
FOR FANS OF: Watery Band of Horses, Pearl/Yamaha


30 Second Reviews from 9/23

The Blueprint 3

SOUNDS LIKE: The living hip hop legend's third LP since his 'retirement' is a sick collection of club-bangers, guests and slow jams
FREE ASSOCIATION: Hove, where's that Beyonce collab? You can't have her to yourself
FOR FANS OF: Yankee hats, hip hop, Blueprints

The xx

SOUNDS LIKE: 20-year-old Brits writing brilliant eerie, sexy and ambient rock songs about sex, love, dating and doing so whispy-like
FREE ASSOCIATION: Show me this record and I'd crawl into your dirty bed, crooked teeth and all
FOR FANS OF: Interpol, Portishead, sexy times

Sondre Lerche
Heartbeat Radio

SOUNDS LIKE: The Norwegian indie darling gives a softer record than Phantom Punch but not as jazzy as Two Way Monologue, it's just right
FREE ASSOCIATION: Why'd you have to go and marry some Scandinavian model?
FOR FANS OF: Jens Lekman, Lykke Li, Royksopp, Lindstrom

The Antlers

SOUNDS LIKE: What started as low-fi folk in a Brooklyn bedroom became a chamber pop force of nature and it's fully realized on this gorgeous record
FREE ASSOCIATION: Damn, you're on some eerie Grizzly Bear tip; but slower and creepier
FOR FANS OF: Dept. of Eagles, Grandaddy

Rain Machine
Rain Machine

SOUNDS LIKE: TV on the Radio's guitarist Kyp Malone's solo record is a long, meandering meditation on his crazy pseudo-yodle
FREE ASSOCIATION: Some Joanna Newsom shit done by a black man with an afro and big glasses
FOR FANS OF: Dear Science, Desperate Youth

The Shaky Hands
Let It Die

SOUNDS LIKE: Portland's jangle-pop indie darlings' second LP on Kill Rock Stars is non-stop strummin', singin' and bangin' all sad but sunny
FREE ASSOCIATION: If only all dudes who move to Portland and started a band sounded like this
FOR FANS OF: Blizten Trapper, better Decemberists

Monsters of Folk
Monsters of Folk

SOUNDS LIKE: A super-quartet includes two Bright Eyes dudes (Conor), M. Ward and Jim James of My Morning Jacket hatch a project; doesn't suck
FREE ASSOCIATION: It's not all Kumbaya or "Blowin' in the Wind," this is sick modern folk
FOR FANS OF: Jenny Lewis, younger Wilco

Flying Machines
Flying Machines

SOUNDS LIKE: New York boys' debut is hyped, not totally undeserved, and sounds like a Queen, ELO, the Jam and Weezer burrito
FREE ASSOCIATION: Sounded totally shitty at first (emo/tired/done before), but this one's a grower
FOR FANS OF: Moody lyrics, shiny modernism


Saturday, September 19, 2009

I made a video.

The video quality is garbage. The sound is not. Don't squint too much.

PW feature on Benni E.

Rapping With A Queer Twist
Gay female rapper Benni E.’s success is imminent.

by Bill Chenevert

The 941 Theater, a BYO venue on North Front St. in Northern Liberties, is filled with girls looking like boys and boys dancing like girls. Twenty-somethings with beards and decked in plaid dance like sissies. Dykes in tank tops and pompadours rub up against their girlfriends. They’re smiling ear to ear and bumpin’ as Sgt. Sass drop their latest EP, Body Rock, with the help of their girl Benni Emilia.

If Sgt. Sass is the beating heart of Philly’s queer hip-hop scene, then Benni E. is the blood pulsating through it. The 25-year-old rapper is here, she’s queer and she doesn’t give a fuck about the homophobic and mysognistic attitudes that characterize most big money rappers. She’s on a journey to become the first gay rapper to hit big.

“I want mainstream success. I’m talkin’ about breakin’ barriers,” says Benni. 

The South Philly native sees the power in music—just rapping about gay life becomes an act of protest, musical activism—and she won’t let the masculine posturing of the rap game, claims of riches and Cristal-fueled mega club-bangers keep her at arms length.

“Right now, going mainstream and being a queer hip hop artist are exclusive things. I think that’s why we push ourselves and we push our envelope because it shouldn’t be.”

“Gay boys, making hip hop is a revolutionary act,” raps Deep Dickollective. “Gay girls, making hip-hop is a revolutionary act.” Revolutionizing hip-hop is what Benni hopes to accomplish with her latest mixtape, Microphone Influenza. Some of the perfectly produced and studio-polished gems from Influenza were the tracks that floored at 941: “I’m Good,” “Sickest Emcee,” Girlz to Church” and “Fashion Scene” to name a few. 

Like many queer rap artists including Sgt. Sass, Benni is taking the hip-hop’s homophobia and spinning gold out of hate. Consciousness doesn’t have to mean boring. Gay artists intend to take conscious rap where Common and Talib took it, but with more color and fierceness. Benni’s trim head sometimes gets covered in a colorful bob wig or with just a fresh New Era hat, stickers on and everything. Fashion is actually important to the Art Institute alum. “People judge you before they know who you are,” Benni explains. “Fashion is a way to make a statement.” So she rocks jeans, high-tops, and fly printed T-shirts, not the dresses and skirts her Panamanian mom expected her to wear as a kid. That’s just the packaging though; the message from Benni is the real product. owner and editor Camilo Arenivar is launching his own LGBT indie hip hop label and has his eye on Benni. “Her flow is just incredible. Her stage presence and her delivery, she just got up there like a class act as if rapping and rhyming was like breathing to her,” he commended. “I think she has an appearance, an appeal that will work. She’s fire.” 

Philly could be the home of the first queer rapper to achieve big things and take hip-hop to a new and exciting place. 

Benni’s been proactively affecting change at large and in Philly for years now. She began reciting conscious poems and lyrics, which she first performed at Duiji Mshinda’s Poems Not Prisons in West Philly at the age of 20. She’s marched in rallies for peace and queer rights, and recently completed work with City Year, a non-profit that’s embedding full-time volunteers in schools as tutors and after-school care providers. 

But at the end of the day, says Benni, “the pen is mightier than the sword,” and right now she’s focused on the rap game. She recently accompanied the members of Sgt. Sass to San Francisco’s Homo-A-Go-Go, a big gay festival of arts and performance. She met up with Philly’s DJ Bunnystyle, her longtime collaborator and live DJ, and Steven Bloodbath to talk about future tracks they’ll be putting down together. Last week she emceed and performed a short set at local FTM Parker Gard’s ByeBye Boobies Benefit, a queer open mic and performance night to raise money for top surgery. Next week, she embarks on a Boston adventure headlining a queer night at Zuzu, put on by DJ D’hana and Paul Foley, and then joins a roster of performers for Aliza Shapiro’s TraniWreck at the Middle East. She’s busy. 

Right now it’s a collection of songs for a mixtape called The Ninth Oz Child. “I’m breaking away from the party-hearty hip-hop,” she says. It’s a prologue to a future full-length, a testing of the waters to generate press and create more opportunities to get on the mic. It’s going down with the help of Neal Dexter, the RUINIT producer she met through Philly’s Chang Chang, in his Jersey studio. Benni’s not into playing to an audience just looking for the next hot electro beat. She’s going to do it lyrically and not with songs about booze, but injustices. 

She’s following through on a struggle that began in Southern California in the mid-’90s with queer hip-hop legends Rainbow Flava and Deep Dickollective (D/DC). “People made the way for us like D/DC, Deadlee, Tori Fixx. These cats laid the groundwork and it’s time for us to pick up our weight and do what we’re supposed to do,” she says. 

The infiltration of gay rappers in hip-hop is now a multi-city movement with over 100 out LGBT rappers and producers thriving in three primary urban pockets: New York, L.A./San Francisco and Atlanta. “I use hip-hop as my venue as an artist—it’s what I use to get whatever I’m going through in my life out,” says Sgt. Sass’s DaQuan. “I happen to be queer so that’s what I’m gonna talk about.” “Faggot Snappin’” might be the perfect example of Sgt. Sass’ gay ways: “First you gotta limp your wrist with attitude and snap it back,” DaQuan raps. “Flip your hair like you don’t care, roll your back and snap right/ Some don’t like the term I use to label up this brand new dance/ I hear the word everyday, they call me it at every chance.” 

Benni’s battle won’t be easy, she’s got two industry strikes against her: Hip-hop continues to take pride in lyrical gay bashing and misogyny. To be a queer rapper reaching for mainstream exposure you’ve got to be pretty damn amazing and Alex Hinton’s Pick Up The Mic documentary revealed the struggle for gay hip-hop artists across the country. From homo-central New York City to Houston, Texas’ Miss Money, to Madison, Wis., there’s a whole stable of gays, lesbians, trans and bisexual men and women grappling with the crushing truth that they’ll probably never achieve the stardom they hope for. 

It’s the reason most queer rappers are content to just play to their own crowd. “Sissies will go buy a sissy record,” says Juba Kalamka of Body Rock, one of the two masterminds behind Deep Dickollective. With over twenty years of emceeing under his tube dress, he has a firm grasp on what success for a queer rapper means and knows that artists like Benni will be hard-pressed to sell 15-20,000 records, the kind of numbers major labels want to see as proof that you can sell. 

Some homo hip-hoppers may be content to dwell in the success of their respective underground cultures, but Benni wants more. “If you make good music you make good music,” she says. “It doesn’t matter what genre, what your background is. If you’re makin’ good music people are gonna support you.” 

Benni knows that there’s no money in keepin’ it local and has been able to make a living performing and with Yo Majesty's success, a Tampa, Fla.-born outspoken lesbian trio of rappers, it doesn't seem so far off. Their explicit and often nudity-filled stage performances have been well-received by critics, homos and forward-thinking straights. It’s a spotlight that Benni may be able to capitalize on, though she’s definitely not getting naked. She doesn’t have to. Benni Emilia’s got the goods, the flow, the beats and the charm.

THE REAL DEAL (Look! Comments!).

Monotonix are effing nuts.

The Israeli punks in Monotonix are something else. They sing in English but it might as well be Hebrew. It’s nearly unintelligible. But that doesn’t really matter – their brand of garage rock is dirty, gritty and heavy on the guitars and wails. Where Were You When It Happened? is their first proper LP after their successful 2008 Drag City EP Body Language. Clocking in at half an hour with eight songs, it’s a rollicking bundle of energy full of screams, moans, drum rolls, feedback, crescendos and lulls.

Their live show reputation precedes them. Notorious for lewd, crude behavior (pouring beers on heads, climbing walls and lighting things on fire) resulting in audience members likely heading home with bruises and scratches, the question is if their antics live up to a record of substance. From the first track, a barreling two-minute introduction called “Flesh And Blood,” you get a Black Keys vibe but more like if those Ohio boys got wasted, pissed off, and took it out on their guitar and drums.

It’s not easy to assert levels of punk in hard, guitar-heavy rock, but these guys are somewhere between Royal Trux, angry Led Zeppelin and Thin Lizzy. They’ve done a couple tours with the Silver Jews but at their gnarliest moments, Where Were You sounds like a Black Sabbath record. Album standout “I Can’t Take It Anymore” is a more digestible rock song. Despite lead singer Ami Shalev’s muffled screams, it slows at the chorus and its churning guitar and syncopated drumbeat are damn near classic rock. You can actually decipher some lyrics on the following “My Needs,” when Shalev moans “what are my neeeeds, what are my neeeeeds.” “Something Had Dried” is the closest the trio get to straight up blues. Each verse gets its due punk treatment of thrashes and freak-outs but it keeps coming back to a rolling blues lick. “Set Me Free” is probably the most radio-friendly tune; another slower, deliberate rock song with a catchy drum beat and a minimal sense of anarchy.

This is not for the faint of rock heart. The nastiness is not far from the trio emerging from a bush of pubic hair spilling out of un-zipped jeans on the cover of the record. But late at night with some alcohol-fueled gusto, I’m sure pushing around the drummer and his bass drum as he surfs the crowd and pounds on his tom would be the sweetest thing on earth. Even if you bruise a wrist.


30 Second Reviews from 9/16

Pete Yorn & Scarlett Johansson
Break Up

SOUNDS LIKE: Yorn was going for a Serge Gainsbourg/Brigitte Bardot thing and ScarJo doesn't ruin his emo guitary duets completely
FREE ASSOCIATION: Babe, these aren't Waits songs, you have to really sing
FOR FANS OF: Match Point, L.A., "Life on a Chain"

The Proclaimers
Notes & Rhymes

SOUNDS LIKE: The '500 Miles' twins are still making ultra-Scottish records that are equal parts pub rock, Nashville, Beatlemania and UK folk
FREE ASSOCIATION: How many songs into their set do drunks start yelling '500 Miles!'?
FOR FANS OF: The '80s + the movie Once

Sea Wolf
White Water, White Bloom

SOUNDS LIKE: Literary chamber pop full of strings and organs, inspired by a love affair in Montreal and executed in Omaha with a Bright Eyes producer
FREE ASSOCIATION: Shoulda recorded it in Canada, woulda sounded less like Conor Oberst
FOR FANS OF: Sad Stars, orchestral Rilo Kiley

Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers
The Bear

SOUNDS LIKE: Western MA native and road warrior who writes sappy country-tinged folksy songs that could be terrible but manage to be charming
FREE ASSOCIATION: A band that could somehow fit in at state fairs, the Opry, and Mercury Lounge
FOR FANS OF: Jackson Browne, the Band, Rhett Miller

The Rifles
Great Escape

SOUNDS LIKE: East London boys' second LP and US debut is full of punchy, short, mod rock reminiscent of every 21st century UK indie rock band
FREE ASSOCIATION: Don't young Brits grow up listening to more than Oasis and the Clash?
FOR FANS OF: Straighter Bloc Party, the Kooks


SOUNDS LIKE: Anaheim, CA quartet of prog rockers' follow up their epic Alchemy EP cycle with serious cerebro-rock taking themselves very seriously
FREE ASSOCIATION: Opening for Brand New and Rise Against might seem like a good idea but...
FOR FANS OF: Slower Muse, Warped Tours

Miley Cyrus
The Time of Our Lives

SOUNDS LIKE: Disney and Walmart team up to re-package the 16-y.o. puppet's Avril-wannabe whiney bullshit, minus "Party In The U.S.A." - pure gold
FREE ASSOCIATION: The world waits for her Jonas Bros. gang-bang sex tape with baited breath
FOR FANS OF: Taylor Swift, Hillary Duff

Karl Denson's Tiny Universe
Brother's Keeper

SOUNDS LIKE: The Cali funk guru got some help (Ndegeochello, funky as hell on the bass) but his Greyboy Allstars ish was more electrically fun
FREE ASSOCIATION: You can almost smell the herb and envision the hoola-hoopers
FOR FANS OF: Festivals of groove, Curtis Mayfield

The real deal.