Sunday, April 30, 2006
Holy crap, the Meat Puppets are reuniting, sorta. And I mean, you can get cynical about yet another 80's indie institution reuniting, but bear in mind that for the past ten years few people have held out hope that Cris Kirkwood would even still be alive at this point, so the whole thing makes me kind of happy and hopeful. Also Curt's quotes in that article are kind of hilariously defensive (I imagine him saying stuff like "I honestly think these are good songs...I don't think this is going to be some sort of 'toss off' album" completely unprompted and to the interviewer's bewilderment). I guess people might cry foul that Bostrom isn't involved, but Herb from Primus sounds like a good enough replacement. The whole Meat Puppets 2.0 debacle is best forgotten about, and I never really heard Eyes Adrift or Volcano, but in retrospect I wish I'd been more positive in my review of Curt Kirkwood's Snow, he definitely still has some good songs in him, and I'm kinda looking forward to hearing the brothers harmonize again.


Friday, April 28, 2006
Producer Series Mix #1: Shondrae "Bangladesh" Crawford

1. Shawnna f/ Twista and Ludacris - "R.P.M." (mp3)
2. Ludacris f/ Shawnna - "What's Your Fantasy"
3. Ludacris f/ Trina, Shawnna, and Foxy Brown - "What's Your Fantasy" Remix (mp3)
4. Ludacris - "Ho"
5. Ludacris f/ UGK - "Stick 'Em Up"
6. Ludacris f/ Twista and Jagged Edge - "Freaky Thangs"
7. Ludacris - "Coming 2 America" (mp3)
8. Freeway f/ Lil' Jon - "Rep Yo Click" (mp3)
9. Petey Pablo f/ Rasheeda - "Vibrate"
10. Ciara - "Hotline"
11. Kelis f/ Too $hort - "Bossy"
12. Turf Talk - "Hubba Rock"
13. Young Gunz - "Same Shit, Different Day"
14. Yung Wun - "I Tried to Tell Ya" (mp3)
15. Missy Elliott - "Click Clack"
16. 8-Ball & MJG - "You Don't Want Drama"
17. 8-Ball & MJG - "Don't Make" (mp3)
18. 8-Ball & MJG f/ Lloyd - "Forever"

Shondrae, who's been putting that "Bangladesh!" soundbyte at the beginning of all his tracks lately, is one of my favorite quasi-Southern producers, from Iowa by way of Atlanta (contrary to the belief of mash-up DJ herbs who think he's from Memphis). For a while a few years ago, I lurked on a hip hop production nerd message board where Shondrae was the resident celebrity, back when he was still part of DTP. But even before that, I was checking for his beats, and even though he's got a few hits under his belt, it seems like not too many people know him by name. This is pretty much all the tracks I know of by him, except for a handful of other Luda/DTP tracks that I left off to fit it all on one disc. Also, the original version of "Rep Yo Click" with 8Ball & MJG on it from a few months ago. Let it also be said that K.W. Griff's remix of "Don't Make" is one of my favorite Baltimore club music tracks of the past 2 years.

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Thursday, April 27, 2006
Anthony is right, although he lays on a bit thicker than I would've. A week or two ago I finally listened to some Art Brut just so I would feel justified in disliking them based on everything I'd read about them, but it was actually worse than I expected. It's stuff like that that reminds me that if I'd spent the past 5 years trying to keep up with what the indie nation is hyping, I'd probably be one of those "rock is dead" doomsayers, instead of happily listening to the mostly really unfashionable contemporary bands that I like along with a whole lot of classic rock.


Wednesday, April 26, 2006
Since I got HBO last year I've finally caught up on most of the past seasons of The Wire (which I have a lot to say about, aside from it being one of the greatest series I've ever seen, but I'll save that for another time), and I'm real hyped about the 4th season coming in September. I have to admit that the end of the 3rd season with the (SPOILER ALERT) death of Stringer Bell kinda bummed me out, though, he was easily one of my favorite characters (also, he kinda looks like the GZA). I'm starting to wonder if he's gonna be back somehow, in flashback scenes or something, though, because my dad went to the "A Night at The Wire" charity auction on the set of the show recently and said that Idris Elba was there hanging out with the rest of the cast, and I heard he's hosting a show at some club in Bmore this weekend too. So unless he moved to Baltimore full-time (which is what Clarke Peters did), maybe he's still involved with the show somehow. Which would be cool, since the only other thing I've seen him in lately is the new Isley Bros. video.

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Monday, April 24, 2006
Thurston Moore - "Altar Boy, Church Basement" (mp3)

Sonic Youth - "Turquoise Boy" (mp3)

I've spent probably hundreds of hours of my life listening to Thurston Moore play guitar, but I can count on one hand the number of times I've heard him play an acoustic guitar (the ones that come to mind at the moment being SY's disastrous Bridge Benefit performance in 1991, and the Experimental Jet Set session that resulted in "Winner's Blues," "Razorblade," and "Compilation Blues," but I'm probably forgetting a couple others). Around 1998 there were some murmerings of Thurston doing a few solo acoustic performances of a song or set of songs referred to as "Dream Investigations," and at one point I think it was suggested that it might be released as part of the SYR series, but that never happened. Whether related to that material or not, Thurston played a solo acoustic instrumental in between improv sets with Wally Shoup and Toshi Makihara at a show in 1999 that was released later as the album Hurricane Floyd. It's a really fantastic track and kinda makes me wish he did more acoustic stuff. There's a new item on the official SY site that says that Thurston recently performed 2 solo acoustic songs on BBC radio, I'm curious what he played.

Various riffs and melodic elements from that Hurricane Floyd track, "Altar Boy, Church Basement," have since cropped up on at least one song from each on the past three Sonic Youth albums: "Rain On Tin" from Murray Street, "New Hampshire" from Sonic Nurse, and now "Turquoise Boy" from the upcoming Rather Ripped. The first two were my favorite tracks from those respective albums, so I was pretty excited recently when someone on the ILM thread about Rather Ripped pointed out that one of the songs on the new album, which I hadn't heard any of yet, continued that thread. I still haven't heard Rather Ripped aside from a handful other tracks that popped up on websites and the band's MySpace page, but I had to track this one down, and it is pretty promising, definitely my favorite of the tracks I've heard so far. I probably won't get to hear the whole album until the June release date, though, so I'll have to make an effort not to burn myself out on this song until then.

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R.I.P. my Ford Taurus, 1989-2006

Saturday, April 22, 2006
The car that was bought by my grandmother 17 years ago, and then handed down to my father, and then handed down to me, is finally dead. Or at least, I've finally decided to stop spending money to fix it. I've been riding in or driving that thing for most of my life now, since I was 7 years old and my brother and I would go visit Grammy every few weekends. And after the past 4 years as its owner and primary driver, desperately trying to suck as much usage out of it before the inevitable, I'm ready to say goodbye.

Grammy never put many miles on it, so most of the wear and tear can be attributed to my dad and I. Dad drove it during the last few years of his daily commute to D.C. before retiring, during the period when he was badly afflicted with sleep apnea, and would frequently doze off behind the wheel. Although he amazingly never had any serious accidents, the Taurus still has several cracks and bumps in the front and back bender from those days. In the summer of 2002, when I moved off-campus and Dad gave me the car, it was already covered in rust and slowly falling apart, but I was determined to get the most out of it.

I don't know if I can even list all the functions and gauges that ceased to work during or before my ownership of the car. For one, there's a compass on the dashboard that to my recollection has never worked. The horn stopped working after a couple weeks of going off at random every time I drove over a bump, which was really embarrassing. The gas gauge kinda sorta worked, in that the needle stayed on F until the tank was almost empty, and then turned right over to E. I almost always waited until it hit E to get gas, and in retrospect it's kind of amazing that I never ran out of gas and was stranded anywhere. The power locks are a little unreliable, especially on the driver's side, and sometimes the back doors stick and have on occasion momentarily trapped friends in the backseat. The turn signals worked only intermittently for a couple years before dying completely. I always felt bad about that, because as I driver I'd always been really vigilant about using turn signals curteously, but the car forced me into becoming the asshole who always changed lanes without warning. I'd still flick the switch every time even though I knew it wouldn't work, just to feel like at least I had good intentions. The only part that really bugged me, though, was in the summer of '03 when the radio stopped working. Driving without music just wasn't an option, though, so for the last two and a half years, I drove everywhere with a Sony boombox in my passenger seat.

Once, when driving into the harbor tunnel, a big pebble bounced up and smacked into my windshield and left a circular crack a couple inches wide. The crack never really got any bigger, and it was on the passenger's side, so I never did anything about it. When Comp saw it he asked if someone had shot at me. The driver's side window is completely fucked up and off the track, and my dad and I are the only people who knew how to arrange it so that there is only a small opening at the top of the window through which a minimum of cold air blows into the car. I used to not know how to fix the window, and one time tried driving back to Delaware for my birthday, which is in January, and when I rolled down the window at the Bay Bridge to pay the toll, the window got stuck down with all the winter air blowing into the car. I was so miserable and cold I just turned around and drove back to Baltimore and felt like shit about it. It was really dramatic, my Worst Birthday Ever.

The car is full of reminders of its previous owners, especially Grammy, who passed away about 4 years ago. Her No Puffin sticker is still on the glove box door. And I still crack up every time I see it, especially when my passengers assume I put it there and don't want them to smoke in the car, which I could care less about, considering how much my dad smoked in the car. When I was cleaning it out, I found a box of little cigars or bidis or something under the seat that he must have left there years ago. And even though I've had the interior cleaned a couple times, the upholstery is still caked with the fur of Dad's dog, Shelby, who he used to let ride in the car on a daily basis, taking her along on every errand.

With the exception of a stretch from Spring '04 to Summer '05, I never went more than 6 months without needing a major repair, and it was rarely the same thing twice. The first was also the only time that was entirely my fault; I drove with the parking brake on half of the way home from school, up in Towson, down to my dad's house, in the city, before realizing it. But the damage had been done, and by the time I got to Fells Point, my brakes had gone out completely. I drove all the way down Aliceanna Street, from President to Washington, with no brakes, rolling through red lights and yelling apologies to people while also yelling for help, because my horn didn't work. The brakes went out again a few months ago, and I paid a few hundred to get them fixed again. That shit is scary.

Late one night when I was driving back from my friend Mat's home studio in D.C., after a long recording session, the engine overheated. I had to pull over on the shoulder of I-95 with smoke billowing out from under the hood, and walk a mile to a 7/11 to call my dad to come pick me up. And because my car was full of drums, keyboards, and recording gear, I had to load it all into Dad's car so that they wouldn't be in the car overnight until I could get it towed in the morning.

But the most unexpected breakdown was last August, after over a year of no significant Taurus problems at all. My brother Zac and his fiancee Brigid had flown out to visit for a few days, and they spent the day before the flight back in D.C. with me and J.G. On the drive home, maybe 10 minutes from Dad's house, my car stopped dead in the middle of the street in Washington Village in South Baltimore. No warning signs, no nothing, the alternator just died right there. We were able to roll the car off onto a side street and park it illegally, and waited in the hood for an hour for the cavalry to arrive. J.G. in particular was not happy. After we got home, she let out all her frustrations and anxieties about me having an unreliable and unsafe car, which had been bubbling under the surface for a long time. Once her ex-roommate had told me that J.G. used to talk about how she was afraid that the car was going to kill me someday, which made me feel horrible. That night, she made me promise, in writing, to try to get rid of it and find a new car within 30 days. I don't know if she forgot about it or just didn't bring it up again because she knew I couldn't afford to buy a car, but she left the paper I signed at my place, and I threw it away and kept the car.

For Easter weekend, I went to Delaware to spend a couple days with my mom and my stepfather, Joe, and the drive down there was uneventful. On Monday, as I got ready for the drive home, Joe, as usual, offered to take a look under the hood and see if I needed any fluids. I was low on oil and power steering fluid, so we went to Walmart to get some and then filled them up. And then, I started to pull out of the driveway, and heard the most godawful grinding sound. At first, I thought I'd left something behind the car and had backed over it or caught a fallen tree branch underneath the car. So I put it in park, but the thing kept rolling until I put on the emergency brake. And for some reason, all these big ball bearings were falling out of the bottom of the car like a gumball machine. Joe reckoned it was the transmission, and just made that face that I knew meant this car was a lost cause.

I've gone for the quick fix more times than I can count, sometimes hundreds of dollars at a time, just to prolong having to get a new car. And if this had happened while I was at home in Baltimore, and I had any money in my bank account, I'd probably go for the quick fix again. But this time, I decided to just let it go. Now that J.G. and I live together, and she takes a shuttle to work and barely uses her car during the day, sharing a car is actually a possibility. We'd already talked a bit about putting me on her insurance when the time comes, and now the time has come. Luckily, Mom had off work the next day, and drove me to Baltimore. The car is still in her driveway right now, and I mailed her the title and registration the other day, so that she can get it towed and junked.

I'm kind of relieved, to be honest. I'd been kind of waiting for the Taurus to finally be so fucked up it wouldn't make sense to pour more money into it, to the point that I wasn't really keeping up on it. I was supposed to take it for am emissions test last fall and never did. A check to the insurance company bounced a couple months ago, and when they cancelled my policy, I didn't bother trying to get it renewed since I was too broke to afford the payments, and these days I only have to drive to class a couple times a week anyway. And I got mail last week that if I didn't send proof of insurance in a month, they'd revoke my license. So having to ditch the car and get on J.G.'s insurance couldn't have come at a better time. Still, I have a lot of memories in that shitty old Taurus. One love, Boomer.


In My Stereo

Friday, April 21, 2006
Freeway/DJ Whoo Kid - Rep Yo Click (G-Unit Radio Part 19)
Fabolous/Street Family/DJ Clue - Loso's Way: Rise To Power
The Rolling Stones - A Bigger Bang
Bruce Springsteen - Born To Run
Jeff Buckley - Grace (Legacy Edition)
Rod Lee - Operation: Start-Up (Morphius reissue)
Team Green/DNA - Hostage Volume 1
B. Rich - Born Rich
Gritty Gang - Gritty Gang Mixtape
Yung Gist - The Baltimore Son

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Narrowcast rates music videos

Thursday, April 20, 2006
Teddy Geiger - "For You I Will (Confidence)"
So my theory is that the RIAA created John Mayer's career so that he could be a younger, prettier Dave Matthews with less classic rock ambitions, but when Mayer went astray with his blues trio, they had to create Teddy Geiger as the new Mayer. I actually kinda like certain parts of this song, namely the way the verses kind of get these rushes of energy out of nowhere every couple bars and then pull back, but dynamics aside, pretty dull. Also the Laguna Beach chick looks weird. 4/10

Red Hot Chilli Peppers - "Dani California"
This whole video concept, which can be boiled down to "watch us dress up like bands from a wide variety of eras and genres that all happen to be playing the same drab alt-rock," has been done many times before, most recently by Morningwood and Bowling For Soup, but even lack of originality aside, this is a new low point for them. Especially because RHCP present all the different styles chronologically, with their current selves as the apparent pinnacle of 50 years of rock evolution. I'm still grappling with the fact that Californication is their biggest selling album. I mean, "By The Way" and a couple other recent singles were aight but why are these guys having so much better a late-period career arc than, say, R.E.M. or some other alt-rock institution that's become incredibly dull by now? 2/10

T-Pain f/ R Kelly, Pimp C, Too $hort, MJG, Twista & Paul Wall - "I'm N Luv (Wit A Stripper)" Remix
For a long time I thought this song was kind of annoying and not as good as "I'm Sprung" and too much like that one Wyclef song, but it's slowly grown on me, especially because of this remix. R.'s verse is far and away the highlight, beginning by talking about how he wants to propose to a girl's ass, and ending by saying he wants to put his entire head inside her ass. 6/10

Kelly Clarkson - "Walk Away"
After a year and a half of dudes shamefully rocking out to "Since U Been Gone," Kelly Clarkson has taken it upon herself to show us all how silly we look singing along to her jams. I like that this is kind of in the slick, slightly cheesy production style of "Miss Independent" or, I don't know, recent Bon Jovi, which I kind of like better than the more earnest rock production of, say, "Behind These Hazel Eyes." Kelly's fashion choices are becoming increasingly questionable, but I applaud the right for women who have soft little bellies and not rock hard abs to bare midriffs in public. And that little hip swivel she does at the beginning of the second verse, oh my god. 9/10

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Wednesday, April 19, 2006
Bruce Springsteen - "Candy's Room" (mp3)
Posting Joey O.'s mix that I put this on reminded me I wanted to post the song itself. Even though I grew up saturated in 70's classic rock, I never really got exposed to much pre-Born In The U.S.A. Bruce, and just in the past 5 years or so I've really taken an interest in him. But every time I copped one of his earlier albums expected it to be The One, it didn't quite hit the spot, until I finally got Darkness On The Edge Of Town, which is exactly what I was looking for: basically Born On The Run but a little darker and less familiar. I guess there are a lot of people that like it but it still offends me that it's the only one of Bruce's first 7 albums that AllMusic gives less than 5 stars to. To me it's like the perfect Bruce album. This song is amazing, the hi-hats, the builds, maybe uncharacteristic enough to be enjoyed even by some Bruce haters. When I start my next band I'll probably try to implement a no-covers policy, but if the other people aren't having it, I'll insist that we cover either this or "King Of The World" by Steely Dan.

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Movie Diary

Monday, April 17, 2006
1. Ice Age: The Meltdown
Last week I tried to go to an advance screening for some movie called Hoot for the City Paper, but it was so advanced that the theater didn't have a reel of it and were presenting it via sattelite, and had a bunch of technical problems. They started the movie 45 minutes late and even then said you might not be able to see the ending, so I said screw it and decided to catch a later screening. But the theater felt bad and was throwing free tickets at people to make them feel better. So the next night, I was able to take J.G. to this for free, so it wasn't a total waste. The first Ice Age is easily my favorite non-Pixar digitally animated feature, so I was kinda looking forward to this. The Wile E. Coyote-style extreme slapstick of the scenes with Scrat are still by far the funniest parts, and sometimes the actual plot with the main characters dragged a little, but it was still almost as good as the original. I wouldn't mind seeing more sequels.

2. The Gong Show Movie
I was somewhat shocked to learn that a full 22 years before Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind, there was already a movie about Chuck Barris that blurred the line between fact and fiction. In fact this might be the most bizarre idea for a movie adapted from a TV show ever, with Barris basically directing himself playing himself as the put-upon host who has to deal with people with crazy talents coming up to him all the time on the street trying to get on the Gong Show, with a lot of odd dramatic interludes although basically no plot. And a young Taylor Negron in a small, uncredited role. If nothing else, watching this movie affirmed for me that comparisons of the American Idol auditions to the Gong Show are perfectly apt.

3. Dig!
Man, this was hard to watch, partly because I identify with the inevitable failure of shitty rock bands far too much. Plus I don't like the music by either of the subjects of the movie, save for maybe the Veronica Mars theme song. It really is a pretty amazing document, though, simply because, in most rockumentaries and Behind The Music type things, there's not much actual footage of the wildest stories, but for these bands, there seemed to be a camera around for everything crazy that ever happened to them. This guy may have replaced Bam Margera as the single most annoying despicable person I've ever seen, the same kind of infuriating inability to take anything seriously and questionable facial hair, along with being one of those guys who's in a band but only ever plays tambourines and maracas and shit like that. Just watching that guy for a couple hours was exasperating, I can't imagine travelling across the country in a van with him.

4. Neighbors
Neighbors has the distinction of being the last, and perhaps least seen film in John Belushi's short career. It's also one of those movies where the 2 lead actors, Belush and Dan Aykroyd, seem to be in roles that could have just as easily been reversed, and according to the IMDb page, they actually were originally set to play the opposite roles, but then switched at the last minute. Aykroyd plays the kind of wild, unpredictable character that Belushi was best known for, and Belushi plays a straight man not unlike the ones played by Aykroyd in later films like the Great Outdoors. But Aykroyd also often did wacky, so his role isn't much of a stretch. But it is kind of odd to see Belushi as a mild-mannered suburbanite with graying temples, playing an age that, at 32, he wouldn't live to experience. He does let loose a little toward the end of the movie, though. It's one of those farcical comedies where certain characters don't seem to operate by any logic at all, to the point that by the end, even the straight man seems to be operating by no rationality, and at that point, you don't care about the plot at all. Which might be excusable were it funnier.

5. The Family Stone
I took my lady to see this and then we went to Red Lobster, a while back, while this was still in theaters but had already been out for a while. It was a little better than I expected, made good use of a big ensemble. Speaking of reversed comedic roles, Luke Wilson is good at being the straight man, but it was refreshing to see him actually be the funny guy for once, and he's good at that too. At some points the tone of the comedy became kind of cruel and shrill, with characters behaving unbelievably and the story coming to a predictable and unlikely resolution, but still, not bad. I'll probably watch it again in a year or two when it's on cable.

6. White Noise
Man, what the fuck happened to Michael Keaton? There are so many "gracefully aging" actors of his generation that still headline a new movie every couple months that I'd gladly trade in for Keaton to have a decent career. This movie probably could've done better with a good trailer, I remember it giving me no motivation to want to see the movie, but having watched it on cable, they totally could've cut together a spooky and intriguing trailer that would've made people want to see it as much as The Ring. It wasn't very good, but I did get good and creeped out watching it, partly because it's about the dead speaking through electrical signals, and my cable was acting up and making all sorts of glitches and jumps on the screen that enhanced the creepiness of it.

7. Cellular
Another one I found myself on the couch wasting an afternoon on, but it definitely surpassed my humble expectations, which were that the movie had nothing to offer beyond the premise established by the trailer. It was pretty fun, though, good plot twists and more cell-related humor than one could ask for.

8. The Apartment
A black-and-white classic that won a ton of Oscars after it was released in 1960, I'd heard good things about this for a long time and finally caught it on TV. Movies this good always make me yearn for a time from before I was born. It's a comedy, but one that plays out very carefully, revealing plot twists so subtly you never see them coming. It's weird to watch something from so long ago that Shirley Maclaine is actually kind of hot, though.

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Sunday, April 16, 2006
George Jones - "Her Name Is" (mp3)
This might not even be in my top ten favorite George Jones songs, but I like the lyrical conceit. George describes the one he loves, but the actual details are filled in by musical phrases, like "her name is (ding-da-ding), her eyes are (ding-da-ding)," until he finally reveals that he can't say who she really is because she's a married woman, and her husband "will kill the man who messes with his wife." The song could really go either way as either sad and profound or kind of a silly novelty, not unlike PCD's "Beep," but what tips it in the latter direction for me is that the instrument that completes his sentences isn't a tasteful country guitar twang but a boingy electric clavinet, which I guess was kind of a new thing in 1976.

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Friday, April 14, 2006
This is a mix I made for Joey O. a couple months ago when I hung out with him up in Philly:

1. Henrietta Collins and the Wife Beating Child Haters - "Drive By Shooting"
2. Apollo Sunshine - "Phoney Marony"
3. Spymob - "On Pilot Mountain"
4. The Sands - "House Of Golden Proportions" (demo)
5. Ruth Ruth - "Jerome"
6. The Oranges Band - "Atmosphere"
7. System Of A Down - "Attack"
8. John Mellencamp - "Love And Happiness"
9. Travis Morrison - "The Word Cop"
10. The Roots - "Push Up Ya Lighter"
11. Freeway and Beanie Sigel - "Philly Niggas"
12. Gwen Stefani f/ Ludacris - "Luxurious" (Zone 4 Remix)
13. DJ Chris J. - "I'm Rich Bitch"
14. Prince - "Shockadelica"
15. They Might Be Giants - "Am I Awake"
16. Sloan - "The Good In Everyone"
17. Frank Black - "Freedom Rock"
18. Ted Leo/Pharmacists - "Come Baby Come"
19. Little Feat - "Strawberry Flats"
20. The Posies - "That Don't Fly"
21. Bruce Springsteen - "Candy's Room"
22. R.E.M. - "Time After Time Etc. (Live Medley: Time After Time/Red Rain/So. Central Rain)"
23. Steely Dan - "Barrytown"

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TV Diary

Thursday, April 13, 2006
1. American Idol
I'd been psyched about this week ever since I heard that the theme was the music of Queen, possibly my favorite singles band of all time. In fact, I'd said to J.G. while watching Idol maybe a month ago before knowing about it that a Queen week would be great for all of the non-R&B singers in the competition that sometimes seem to be struggling for good vocal showcases. I've been mostly OK with the last few weeks of eliminations, Mandisa was kind of a surprise but she never really stood out to me all that much, big voice but always predictable. Katherine being in the bottom 3 a couple weeks was pretty much the only time I've been really outraged so far. Right now my favorite is Elliott, just in terms of seeming like a really nice, dorky dude who happens to have a good voice, and I loved him doing "Somebody To Love." I don't see him going the distance but I want to keep him around a while longer, so I was pretty relieved when Bucky got eliminated this week when it was him and Elliott and Ace in the bottom 3 (although Ace's "We Will Rock You" was so terrible that I would've been pretty mad that he got to stay if anyone but goddamn Bucky had gone instead). Pickler's abbreviated "Bohemian Rhapsody" was a pleasant surprise, maybe her only impressive performance the whole season. Noone else seemed to point out when she sang the "stop me and spit in my eye" line directly to Simon, I thought that was a nice touch. I was kinda glad that noone tackled the unassailable "Under Pressure," but Chris sounded so good singing a couple lines of that in the medley on Wednesday that I almost wish he'd picked it instead of "Innuendo." I'm still kind of on the fence about how much I like Taylor, but he pulled off "Crazy Little Thing" well and his flubbed mic stand kick was hilarious.

2. Unan1mous
I've been pretty good about not getting sucked into the super-trashy reality shows in the past, but the Idol lead-in for this got me hooked. The whole thing just looks sleazy as hell, from the low low production values to the weird redheaded geeky host, who doesn't fit the tone of the show at all (apparently he used to host a show on Animal Planet, which makes way more sense). But the way they keep changing the rules and throwing curveballs at the contestants is great, there's no systematic, predetermined formula for how each episode is going to go. It kind of annoys me that the original prize money, $1.5 million, isn't really that impressive a figure to begin with for a big TV show, and the amount keeps shrinking (the dollars ticking away every second that they don't come to a unanimous decision), and was already chopped in half once because someone decided to leave without being eliminated. At this point I don't know if I'd really bother fighting tooth and nail for little more than half a mil. But then, with the way they keep changing the rules, I wouldn't be surprised if the big shock at the end is that the winner gets the original amount. At this point I'm sick of Steve, the trucker who almost convinced everybody to give him the money early on for reasons I still don't understand (he has 4 kids? is that all it was?), and is now acting all pissed and entitled now that the prize is slipping out of his fingers.

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Narrowcast rates music videos

Wednesday, April 12, 2006
Black Eyed Peas - "Pump It"
This video makes me feel so bad for Taboo. Not only does he get only 2 lines in the entire song, but he's the only member of the group who doesn't have a cool superpower, unless you count when he karate chops the camera at the very end, which I don't. 6/10

Fall Out Boy - "A Little Less 16 Candles, A Little More 'Touch Me'"
A while back, I talked about how the Killers kinda dropped the ball with a shitty third video for a song that could've been much bigger with a different video, but it didn't really matter because they'd already sold a couple million records at that point. This is the same kind of deal. I didn't like FOB's first hit, but I like "Dance, Dance" and I like this, but man, this video is ass. Doesn't fit the song at all, truly laughable acting, cheesy Buffie/Blade/Underworld vampire hunter plot, a lot of really annoying sound effects and dialogue that interrupt the song, which is one thing I can never forgive with videos. I mean, sure, go crazy with the choreography and special effects if you want, but let me listen to the actual song. My Chemical Romance's big epic 3rd video was also kind of a disappointing but at least fit and enhanced the mood of the song. 3/10

James Blunt - "You're Beautiful"
I still hate this song, but I've learned to enjoy whenever the video comes on by narrating the action in a shrill imitation of James Blunt's voice. "I took off my shirt. I'm sitting on the ground, with my shoes. I'm very wet, I might as well just jump into the water." Try it, it's loads of fun. 3/10

Busta Rhymes f/ Mary J. Blige, Rah Digga, Missy Elliott, Lloyd Banks, Papoose and DMX - "Touch It (Remix)"
It's a shame somebody had to die at all, but he at least could've died for a better video. It's a pretty entertaining spectacle, though, all the different guests and their names flashing across the screen, sometimes just people who aren't on the even on the song like Sean Paul show up and have their names flashed across the screen.The long long intro that involved both a tribute to Izzy and a silly skit with Spliff Star and a bunch of cheerleaders. And all the terrible terrible verses, maybe the non-rapper out of the bunch, Mary J., having the best verse of anyone, DMX's part rendered (more) incoherent by the censors (BLARGH BLARGH FORK IN YOUR EYE BLARGH BLARGH TOOTHLESS), Missy doing another stupid and slightly creepy verse about how she wishes she looked like Beyonce or Halle Berry or Nia Long. And Papoose managing through it all to still be the worst, like riding the beat never once occurred to him and he just had to do his cheesy conceptual rhyme about his fingers being the 5 boroughs. 4/10

Chris Brown - "Yo (Excuse Me Miss)"
I hated on this video a while back, but the song has really grown on me. And while the choreography is completely bizarre and embarrassing to watch, Omarion's cameo is funny enough to redeem even the unfunny DeRay cameo. 4/10

She Wants Revenge - "Tear You Apart"
I'm kind of fascinated by stuff like this and Louis XIV, and Morningwood, faux-indie bands that get across-the-board negative reviews, like critics and hipsters who fall for shitty nu-rock hypes all the time are just a little too proud of themselves for not falling for these shitty nu-rock hypes. This truly is horrible, but the Joaquin Phoenix-directed video is so over-the-top it's practically camp. There's a dialogue-heavy plot (note to Fall Out Boy: Joaquin Phoenix knows how to use subtitles instead of having people talk all over the song) about a girl who has a dick or some other dark secret that the guy who feels her up at the school dance is shocked and repulsed by. And when the high school lynch mob chases after her, the two wrinkly old douchebags from She Wants Revenge magically appear and rescue her to teach her how to be a happy hermaphrodite or something. 1/10

Missy Elliott - "We Run This"
Dave Meyers is the worst video director in the world when he's working with anyone besides Missy, but together they're pretty good. The first part of the video with "Bad Man" looks pretty amazing and makes me enjoy a song I never much liked on the album. The only parts that annoy me are when Missy's head is super-imposed on other people's bodies in ways that look really cheesy and unrealistic, but I guess that's all a part of her creepy "don't I look like Beyonce?" thing. 7/10

Pussycat Dolls f/ Will.I.Am - "Beep"
At first I thought I just liked this song because of the ELO sample but now I pretty much like the whole thing. It's obnoxious in a fun way like "My Humps" but is pretty well written, too. It's kind of hilarious how on their third single, they finally let a PCD other than the girl from Eden's Crush sing, and even then just a couple of the girls, a line each, Taboo-style, so they're not just glorified video chicks (which really, is what they are, one singer with a permanent crew of video chicks). And even then, the choruses handled by the other 2 girls are the worst parts of the song, they just totally fuck it up. I keep getting the feeling that Will.I.Am is paying homage in this to Q-Tip in the "Breathe And Stop" video, just because these are the only 2 videos I've ever seen where a rapper rides a bike through a room full of dancing chicks. 7/10

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Tuesday, April 11, 2006
Something doesn't sit well with me about the whole school of comic strips that flaunt a complete lack of visual artistry to the point of using the same panels over and over and only changing the dialogue. But some of these Dinosaur Comics are pretty hilarious.

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Monday, April 10, 2006
B.G. f/ Gar - "Whateva U Like" (mp3)
Not my favorite song on The Heart of tha Streetz, Vol. 2 (I Am What I Am) by a long shot, but you really do have to hear the Hurricane Katrina punchline that involves vaginal secretion.

Note: In light of the end of Stylus in 2007, I decided to archive the text of all my reviews for the site on this blog for posterity, since I don't what the future holds for the Stylus domain, and have included both the letter grade ratting that accompanied the original review, and an adjusted rating that I would give the record now in retrospect.

The Heart of tha Streetz, Vol. 2 (I Am What I Am)
Chopper City
Stylus rating: B-
Adjusted rating by reviewer: B

Cash Money Records' only star left on the roster, Lil’ Wayne, may be at a career high point right now, but the long-running New Orleans rap label's disgruntled alumni is its own biggest competition. Juvenile's first post-Cash Money release, Reality Check, became his first #1 album earlier this year. And Mannie Fresh left Cash Money last year after producing 99% of its hits, and is finally becoming the superproducer-for-hire that he's always deserved to be. But B.G., one of the first Cash Money artists to fly the coop, is the most firmly established in his own world now, a respected mid-level star with his own label, Chopper City Records.

The Heart of tha Streetz, Vol. 2 (I Am What I Am) is B.G.'s tenth album since beginning his recording career at the age of 11 as Baby Gangsta. And it's his fourth in as many years on Chopper City Records, proof that his separation from the Cash Money machine hasn't slowed down his grind. But the man who titled his 2004 album Life After Cash Money isn't done fixating on the crew that he ran with for a decade and then divorced from bitterly, and songs like "Living Right" are all about how much better his life is "since I left C.M."

B.G.'s post-Cash Money output hasn't differed from his early albums in many respects, except for the absence of the label's in-house production guru. But now that Mannie Fresh is a free agent, he's hooked up with B.Gizzle once again for Heart of tha Streetz, Vol. 2's lead single, the wonderfully bouyant "Move Around." Although it rides the same boom-boom-clap rhythm as many of Fresh's productions since Young Jeezy's "And Then What," it's perhaps the best use of that formula yet, a rousing anthem about the ubiquity of fried baloney sandwiches in the hood. But the single most thrilling moment of the song is at the end when B.G. lets loose the sound that's become, like Jadakiss's cackle, his vocal calling card: a deep, creaky "WAHHHHHHHHHH." Although "Move Around" is by far the most polished song on the album, his weathered voice sounds like a raw nerve in that one moment.

B.G. has reportedly been clean and sober for three years now, but his past addiction to heroin looms over his recent albums in the form of the damage done to his voice. He's always rapped in a loose, conversational drawl, sometimes talking over the beat as much as rapping. But on The Heart of tha Streetz, Vol. 2, B.G.'s voice is nasal and faded, and perfectly suits all his talk about being a grizzled veteran, even if he frequently gets drowned out by the already subdued production.

The biggest hit from any of B.G.'s solo albums is "Bling Bling," the song that literally changed the dictionary and both defined the zeitgeist of hip hop materialism and gave the backlash a target for its hatred. But "Bling Bling" was a posse cut and Lil Wayne coined the title, and in truth B.G. now seems like a reactionary to Cash Money's extravagant flossing. Instead, he's moved onto the drug dealing raps currently in vogue in the South, frequently collaborating with T.I. "I Ain't Got Nothing" is the obligatory anti-snitching screed, and songs like "Yeah Nigga Yeah" almost gleefully detail the particulars of hustling in the trap.

The Heart of tha Streetz, Vol. 2's guest appearances are almost exclusively by obscure New Orleans MCs. And one guy named Bossman, who appears on two tracks and couldn't ride a beat to save his life, is clearly not the same Bossman from Baltimore who is currently signed to Virgin Records. But "Deuces Up" features Houston rappers Yung Redd and the increasingly tiresome Paul Wall, once again selling 16 bars of the same flow he uses on every song. But the real star of the track is Pretty Todd's barely-there production, all faint ticks and fizzes of percussion around a woozy bassline and distant organ note. The track is too layered and detailed to be described as minimalist, but it's so hypnotically slight and quiet that it stands head and shoulder's above the album's more generic 808 beats.

Most of the media attention to Juvenile and Lil Wayne's recent albums has focused on the one or two songs from each that bear any reference to last year's horrific flooding of New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. By comparison, several songs on Heart of tha Streetz, Vol. 2 reference Katrina, although largely by way of passing mentions, with nothing as overt as Juve's "Get Your Hustle On." But B.G. has succeeded in making an appropriately bleak, angry post-Katrina album, whereas Juvenile filled Reality Check with some of the most tedious, monotonous strip club music ever made. Curiously, though, B.G. ends his album with the slick sex jam "Whateva U Like," which contains the single most bizarre and unexpectedly humorous reference to Katrina to date. On the topic of female ejaculation, B.G. shrugs "I ain't trippin' on that, let's sex some more / I been through Hurricane Katrina, I been wet before."

Throughout Heart of tha Streetz, Vol. 2, B.G. trumpets the same comeback he's been talking about ever since he left Cash Money. But he might be onto something, since he's become the most sought after collaborators in the South lately, and has been surrounded by rumors of signing with G-Unit. Last week, though, he signed a contract to move Chopper City Records from independent distribution on Koch to Atlantic Records, with yet another album due out this fall, to be executive produced by T.I. So if this album seems like a minor work in a long and prolific career, that may be because it's about to be outshined by a much bigger project less than six months later.

Reviewed by: Al Shipley
Reviewed on: 2006-04-10

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In My Stereo

Friday, April 07, 2006
Tru Life/Green Lantern/DJ Kay Slay - New New York: The Movement
Grand Buffet presents A Night Of Laughin'! Volume 1
Ken Stringfellow & WaFlash - EP
Ted Leo/Pharmacists - Sharkbite Sessions EP
Apollo Sunshine - The Other Side Of The World EP
Ruth Ruth - The Little Death EP
Lake Trout - There Are No Words EP
Cex - Know Doubt EP
UnReal - Real Talk Volume 1
Architects Recording Studio & DJ Radio/Streetsweepers present Street Radio Volume 2.5

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Thursday, April 06, 2006
2Pac f/ the Outlawz - "Pain" (mp3)
I was never that into Pac, although I heard a lot of his hits while he was still alive, and he definitely seemed more famous at the time than Biggie. But since they died, Biggie probably gets played 10x as much on the radio stations I listen to, and I dunno, it just took me a lot longer to come around to accepting Pac as one of the greats, East coast bias and all that bullshit. Last year I had Ethan make me a Pac mix CD, but still the only stuff I have besides that is All Eyez On Me. This track kinda snuck up on me, after I heard the beat used on a track by a Baltimore rapper, Bossman, and loved the beat so much that I posted it on Gov't Names, trying to find out where it's originally from. And one of my awesome readers hooked me up with the original, apparently only ever released on the cassette version of the Above The Rim soundtrack (and also remade by Ja Rule on Pain Is Love). The crazy thing about the Bossman version is it turns out that he just looped the first few bars before all the drums kick in, so his track has more of an odd low energy feel to it, but the original is great on its own, maybe one of my favorite 2Pac tracks now, and there's a sample from Star Trek V at the beginning.

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Wednesday, April 05, 2006
Jim Gaffigan - "Hot Pockets" (mp3)
Ever since his Comedy Central special aired a few weeks ago, J.G. and I have been obsessed with this bit, saying "hoooot pocket" and all the other variations (dead pocket, diarrhea pocket, flush pocket, caliente pocket) under our breath all day around the apartment. Completely stupid, but it never gets old.

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Got 'Ryche?

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

A few years ago, my brother was working at a movie theatre, and he told me about how he kept seeing this car in the parking lot that was just COVERED in Queensryche bumper stickers, and he was constantly trying to figure out which one of his co-workers was the Queensryche superfan. The funniest part of the story was the "Got 'Ryche?" bumper sticker, which is even funnier now that I know that Queensryche's site sells official swag with that phrase on it.

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Monday, April 03, 2006
R.E.M. - "Time After Time Etc. (Live Medley: Time After Time/Red Rain/So. Central Rain)" (mp3)
Contrary to its title, Essential R.E.M. In the Attic: Alternative Recordings 1985-1989 is completely inessential, cobbling together b-sides already collected on Dead Letter Office and a few alternate mixes that appeared on Eponymous. It's a testament to my fucked up record buying priorities as a teenager that I own this but not all of their actual studio albums from this period. But this track is the main reason I'm glad I held onto it. A real quiet performance with no drums, maybe as an encore, sounding more unsure of what song to play than doing an actual medley, delving into a quick few bars of Peter Gabriel. But I really like the vibe of it, especially on the "So. Central Rain" part, when those Mills background vox come in on the 2nd verse, and the outro, always my favorite part of the song, is super intense.


Sunday, April 02, 2006
I will never look at Gatorade the same way again.

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