Archive for May, 2004


I Got No Style

Although Memorial Day is and always has been a rather meaningless holiday for me (its major significance for me being that HBO skips that weekend, and so I have to wait an extra week for the season finale of The Sopranos, as I did last year for Six Feet Under), I will be taking this coming Monday off. If all goes well, things will be back to the regular schedule on Tuesday, at which time the site will have a bold new look. I’ve been meaning to redesign this site for quite a while now – it is time to move on from the stark white look and go for something more colorful and pop.

Scout Niblett “Uptown Top Ranking” – This is an acoustic cover of the Althea & Donna song, performed in a Cat Power-esque style by a woman with a very unfortunate stage name. There’s not a lot much more to it than that, really. This doesn’t touch the original, but the song lends itself to this kind of spare, funereal approach better than one might expect. (Click here to buy it from Rough Trade, or here as a digital single package from Too Pure.)

Elsewhere: Thom: Weblog has compiled what could be the most comprehensive list of MP3 blogs on the net, with yet more new blogs linked in the comments section. Frankly, it’s staggering just how many of these things have popped up within 18 months.


Equals Am-Bi-Gyoo-Ity!

Pop Levi “Rude Kinda Love” – Though indie Beach Boys pastiches come roughly dime a dozen these days, this little single has a melody strong enough to set itself apart from the more lackluster Brian Wilson impressions out there, as well as a rather large chunk of the actual Beach Boys catalog. I always feel a little bad for folks who write perfect songs in genres which have long since fallen out of favor with the pop charts – if this song had been written in the early 60s, it probably would have been a Top 40 hit. (Click here to buy it from Rough Trade.)

Matt Harding “Leave It Up To You” – This sounds lackadaisical in the best possible sense of the word. Its warm, fluid bassline, laid back drum loop, and inspired lead guitar and melodica parts evoke a sense of contented listlessness and calm resignation which can feel like the best thing ever at just the right times. This is taken from Harding’s 2003 LP Commitment. (Click here to buy it from Moshi Moshi Records.)

Elsewhere: Three more new MP3 blogs have popped up in the past few days – Vinyl Journey digitizes out of print vinyl releases from 1977-1993; Marx Vs. The Monorail focuses on music from continental Europe; and Bpatcher is too new to adequately describe.


You’re Just A Face Muscle

Whitey “Just Another Animal” – This is much less guitar-heavy and oppressive than Whitey’s previous singles, which were quite good but lack the relative sophistication of this composition. Whereas “Twoface” and this single’s a-side, “Why You Have To Be Me” sustain tension, “Just Another Animal” builds up to a catharsis of distorted guitar riffing, and the song is much better for having that structure and release. This may not fully sink in right away, so give it a few listens – it’s a major grower and benefits from being played on repeat. (Click here to buy it from Kudos Records.)

Mocky (featuring Jamie Lidell) “How Will I Know You” – If you can forgive the cheesy, smirky white-guy rapping, this is a pretty solid bit of smooth quasi-r&b. Mocky is in with the Peaches and Gonzales/Kitty-Yo crowd, and so it should come as no surprise this collaboration with Jamie Lidell ends up sounding as though it could be the work of Gonzales’ understudy. (Click here to buy it from Juno Records.)


This Is Not The Way It’s Going To Be Forever

Mr. Magic “Potential 1980″ – This is a selection from the new The Third Unheard: Connecticut Hip Hop 1979-1983 compilation on the Stones Throw label. As the title makes very obvious, the record chronicles the early days of hip hop in the one part of the Tri-State Area which is rarely associated with hip hop culture. The quality of the music on the compilation is generally quite good, but the best thing about the record is the way that it captures the excitement of its moment in time, when the musical center of urban black culture was still in the process of shifting from disco and funk to hip hop.

Of all of the tracks from the collection, Mr. Magic’s “Potential 1980″ best illustrates the transitions taking place within the music itself. In the song, the emphasis is still being placed on the performance of the disco band, with the rudimentary rapping functioning more as an additional element rather than the focus of the composition. At this point in the history of hip hop, it is very difficult to imagine a hip hop track in which the rapping is secondary to musicians trading solos during a lengthy jam, but that’s exactly what is going on in this recording. In historical context, it is interesting to hear the music mid-evolution, but it also hints at some formal possibilities for the genre which have mostly been left unexplored. (Click here to buy it from Other Music.)

Tracy and the Plastics “Henrietta” – Though I am sure that something is indeed lost by not having ever experienced Tracy and The Plastics’ performance art, which centers on Wynne Greenwood interacting with her fictional video bandmates as she sings her songs, the music on her records is often good enough to stand on its own without the visual component or the somewhat cringe-inducing art school thesis statement. “Henrietta” is a fine bit of dark electronic pop which reminds me quite a bit of PJ Harvey during her Is This Desire? period. (Click here to buy it from Other Music.)

Also: Catchdubs has an exclusive Hollertronix mash-up of Radiohead’s “Sit Down Stand Up” and Lil Flip’s “Game Over” which you can download directly from this link (for some reason, I can’t direct link to the Catchdubs entry). Most Radiohead mash-ups tend to be pretty weak, but this one works for me. Nice stuff. While you’re at Catchdubs, be sure to grab the MP3 of Ciara’s “Goodies,” which is pretty damn excellent too.

Elsewhere: Scissorkick is another new MP3 blog with a sharp design and an eclectic mix of music, audio, and video content.


Tonight I Leave It Up To You

Spektrum “Kinda New” – Nearly all of the reviews that I’ve read about the Spektrum record namecheck DFA and a wide range of punk-funk artists both new and old, and though I can hear some tangental relationship to that sort of music on Enter The Spektrum, by far the best songs from the LP owe more to straight up dance pop and modern r&b than anything else. “Kinda New” could easily pass as being a dance remix of a track by a nu-soul r&b singer following in the footsteps of Angie Stone, Jill Scott, and Erykah Badu. The vocals are competant if a bit generic, but the real draw here is the light, subdued funk of the track itself. The whole thing sounds so amazingly understated and spare, with several melodic, rhythmic, and textural elements flowing together perfectly in a way that doesn’t sound the least bit busy in spite of its relative complexity. From start to finish, “Kinda New” feels as though it is gliding along several feet above the ground, eventually gaining maximum altitude during a brief synth solo halfway through which recalls “Head” from Prince’s Dirty Mind. (Click here to buy it from Other Music.)

Gang Gang Dance “Rugs Of Prayer” – This is a selection from They Keep Me Smiling, a super limited edition compilation/art book put together by Hisham Bharoocha, formerly of the band Black Dice. Gang Gang Dance are a somewhat mysterious collective of musicians from NYC who specialize in spooky art music which straddles the line separating goth and avant rock. Basically, this sounds like The Slits with all of the goofy fun and sex removed. I realize that sounds like a condemnation, but it’s good stuff on its own terms, I promise. Play it at your next séance! (Click here to buy it from Social Registry.)

Two more new MP3 blogs: A Million Love Songs is focused on teen pop love songs, and Supervixxen covers a fairly wide range of UK chart pop. I am happy to see a lot of very pop-oriented MP3 blogs turn up, but I’m a bit worried for them, since I think that their chances of getting in trouble with record labels is far greater than that of blogs focusing on more obscure material. Still, the best of luck to them.


We Are Blessed And Complete

Sia “Where I Belong (Red Astaire Remix)” – This is the latest mix from Swedish producer Red Astaire, and it could be his best remix to date. Astaire sets Sia’s quiet ballad against the backdrop of a pimp-funk bassline, a disco beat, and plaintive saxophone to great effect, far surpassing the source material. This is going to be released on the forthcoming single for “Where I Belong,” due out in July in the UK.

Greyboy Vs. Quantic (featuring Sharon Jones) “Gotta Be Your Love” – I promise you that you cannot sit still while listening to this; the grooves are just too strong to resist. On this track, California’s Greyboy teams up with Brighton’s soul funk king Quantic and Daptone Records’ brilliant Sharon Jones for one of the finest modern soul tunes that I’ve heard in a long time. (Click here to buy it directly from the label.)

I wish that I could say something better about these two songs, but I’m at a loss today. Both of these songs definitely deserve a better write-up than this! The same goes for the Armand Van Helden track from yesterday – all of these songs are very, very new to me, and I haven’t thought very much about them aside from “brilliant awesome perfect yeah yeah yeah!”

Elsewhere: Into The Groove is the new MP3 blog from the author of the Dirrrty Pop site. As you may have guessed, the emphasis of this blog is on bright and shiny contemporary pop tunes.

Also: If there is anyone in the NYC area who needs a ticket for tomorrow night’s sold out Scissor Sisters show at the Bowery Ballroom, drop me a line. I’ve got an extra.


Here Time Is Ending, Here I’m Gonna Stay

Clinic “Falstaff” – I am beginning to wonder if Clinic are working on some kind of conceptual project of making modular pop. Walking With Thee felt as though the band was rewriting their own material, but there was enough distinct about those songs to make it seem that it was only a coincidence and that they were just being themselves.

Songs from Winchester Cathedral often seem as though the impulse to rework parts from previous material has become deliberate rather than accidental or habitual. The most obvious example is “The Magician,” which sounds like the groove of “Welcome” has been spliced with the melodica style of “The Equalizer,” with only some vague nod to klezmer as a new element. It could just be my imagination, but at least three songs from this new record make reference to the previous album’s “Sunlight Bathes Our Home.” Some new sounds and techniques differentiate Winchester Cathedral from its predecessors (mainly the use of simple piano on several tracks, and a greater range of percussive sounds and effects), but it does not add enough novelty to make the record feel like anything more than a less enthusiastic version of what they’ve already done.

“Falstaff” is a major exception on the album. Though Clinic have written other tunes in the same light jazzy balladic style, the song’s sweet, romantic melody and heavily reverbed guitar refrains stand out as the most memorable parts of the entire record.

Armand Van Helden featuring Spalding Rockwell “Hear My Name” (Radio Edit) – This brilliant rock/house hybrid is running in a dead heat with Gene Serene’s “Electric Dreams” as being my favorite electropop tune of this year so far. The song is the new single from Van Helden’s New York: A Mix Odyssey compilation, which mixes some of his own compositions and newer selections along with obvious classics from Blondie, Yazoo, Soft Cell, and Wire (via Klonhertz). (Click here to buy it.)

Neo-Miyako “My Nuthin Babe” – As with Fujiya & Miyagi, this is not a Japanese group, but rather a bunch of white guys from Brighton. Neo-Miyako specialize in catchy, high-gloss electro-rock, not unlike that one great single that Richard X did with the Sugababes. Great stuff. (Click here to buy a compilation featuring this track.)

Elsewhere: Kittytext is a new MP3 blog with an emphasis on folk and country. Bumrocks offers a new twist on the MP3 blog format: no writing, all tunes.


Good Natured Fun

Castro “I’m Related To U” – As far as I know, Castro have not yet officially released anything, but this furious punk number was slated to appear (along with a few other songs being posted this week) on the Under The Beach, A Heart Attack compilation put together by Nikon and K of Brighton’s premier club night, It Came From The Sea. I’m not exactly sure why, but this song sounds a lot like a more visceral, intense version of early Afghan Whigs to me. Feel free to tell me that I’ve lost my mind if you disagree.

Excerpt from “The Right Perspective”, May 7th 2004 – This was recorded from shortwave radio by WFMU’s The Professor. If you think that Fox News and conservative talk radio is extreme, hateful, and totally unreasonable, then your mind will be blown by what gets out over shortwave. The on-air style is not that different from their AM and FM dial counterparts, but right wing hosts on shortwave always go a few steps beyond the pale and launch into the kind of white supremacist rants and hysterical conspiracy theorizing that could never make it out over the more strictly regulated and advertiser-dependent commercial airwaves. In the case of this excerpt, the host suggests that the torture and humiliation of the prisoners at Abu Ghraib was nothing more than “a college hazing, good natured fun to help build the morale of our soldiers.”


Mixing Cocktails With A Plastic-Tipped Cigar

Blue Minkies “You Make Me Blush” – This is the latest single from Brighton’s The Blue Minkies, whose aesthetic is a charming throwback to early 90s DIY both in terms of sound (it seems as though their favorite bands in the world are Huggy Bear and Bikini Kill) and style (an emphasis on old school indie zine making.) “You Make Me Blush” is a fun bit of UK punk built around a persistent, high pitched toy keyboard vamp which is almost as ingratiating as it is headache-inducing.

Pavement “Perfect Depth/She Believes/Summer Babe” (Live at the Great American Music Hall, San Francisco, 1994) – Here’s a little treat for all of the Pavement junkies out there. In addition to just being a great performance from a significant period of their career (just after the release of Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain and the addition of drummer Steve West to the line-up), this recording is notable for two things. First, “Perfect Depth” was rarely played live, and whenever it was performed, it was in a more conventional arrangement which allowed the lyrics to be intelligable and the vocal melody to be the focus of the song rather than feedback and white noise. Second, this version of “She Believes” features Stephen Malkmus playing the guitar part from the Sun City Girls’ “Space Prophet Dogon” (one of my all-time favorite songs, incidentally) over the lengthy intro.

If you’re a fan of the band, I recommend picking up a copy of Rob Jovanovic’s book Perfect Sound Forever, which was just released a little over a week ago. As a Pavement fanatic, I found it to be pretty satisfying even though it didn’t add all that much to what I already knew. The most exciting thing for me (aside from a few great anecdotes courtesy of Bob Nastanovich) was the ephemera printed throughout the book – several dozen zine reviews from the 89-92 period, print ads, alternate tracklistings, college radio charts, business correspondence, the entire venue rider for the 1999 tour. If you are the least bit nerdy about this band, then this book is a must-have.

Elsewhere: Mystery & Misery is another new mp3 blog with an emphasis on indie and experimental music.

Also: The Fiery Furnaces talk about their influences in the Guardian.

The Fiery Furnaces’ next project is even based on the Who’s mini-rock opera The Who Sell Out. “Our forthcoming album is a bunch of seven- to eight-minute songs with varying degrees of incoherent stories, so it’s a narrative set to music, just like The Who Sell Out,” says Matthew. “We’re happy to imitate other bands. On Gallowsbird’s Bark, we tried, unsuccessfully, to imitate the first album by [1960s Brazilian rockers] Os Mutantes, Taking Tiger Mountain by Brian Eno, and The Madcap Laughs by Syd Barrett.”

(Thanks to Parallax View.)


Brighton The Corners

Apropos of nothing at all, this shall be my first themed week on Fluxblog. Each day this week I shall be posting at least one song by an artist from Brighton, England, which is an emerging hot spot for indie-pop culture. I don’t have any special reason for doing this, other than that I have a stockpile of songs by mostly unknown and/or unsigned acts from that city, and I thought that it might be fun to give them all exposure at once.

Fujiya & Miyagi “Electro Karaoke” – Fujiya & Miyagi is a somewhat misleading name for this duo of white British guys playing electro krautrock. This is taken from their debut LP Electro Karaoke In The Negative Style, which was released on Massive Advance in 2002. The song is a bit of a grower – it’s a pretty subtle groove, and it doesn’t fully kick in until after about two and a half minutes have passed.

Shrag “Punk Grammar” – This is a rerun for those of you who were reading this blog back in February, but I couldn’t start off a week about Brighton without bringing up Shrag, who are one of the most promising (and cute) bands from that city. This song, which has not yet been officially released, is a catchy electropunk grammar lesson with cute, shouty vocals about verbs, adjectives, and infinitives.

Elsewhere: Bang & Burn is a new MP3 blog which is launching today with a tribute to Abba, Bananarama, and the Eurovision Song Contest – all in one song!

Also: Livejournal users should note that they have the option of syndicating this site to their friends page.

And: Those of you who have not yet heard The Fiery Furnaces’ brilliant Blueberry Boat should head on over to TTIKTDA, where two songs from the album (including my personal favorite, “Inspector Blancheflower”) have been posted for a limited time.

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