2006 at the halfway point

Friday, June 30, 2006
1. T.I. - King
2. Sonic Youth - Rather Ripped
3. Field Mob - Light Poles And Pine Trees
4. Jon Auer - Songs From The Year Of Our Demise
5. The Raconteurs - Broken Boy Soldiers
6. Lil Wayne/DJ Drama - Dedication 2
7. Prince - 3121
8. Carla Bozulich - Evangelista
9. Remy Ma - There's Something About Remy
10. Jaheim - Ghetto Classics
11. Ray Cash - Cash On Delivery
12. Junior Private Detective - Erase
13. DJ Khaled - Listennn...The Album
14. Donald Fagen - Morph The Cat
15. B.G. - The Heart Of Tha Streetz, Vol. 2 (I Am What I Am)
16. Pearl Jam - Pearl Jam
17. Morningwood - Morningwood
18. Shawnna - Block Music
19. Ne-Yo - In My Own Words
20. Juvenile - Reality Check

1. DJ Khaled f/ Paul Wall, Lil Wayne, Fat Joe, Rick Ross and Pitbull - "Holla At Me Baby"
2. T.I. - "What You Know"
3. Foo Fighters - "No Way Back"
4. India Arie f/ Akon - "I Am Not My Hair"
5. Ray Cash f/ Scarface - "Bumpin' My Music"
6. Pink - "Who Knew"
7. Chamillionaire f/ Krayzie Bone - "Ridin'"
8. Toni Braxton - "Take This Ring"
9. Ne-Yo - "When You're Mad"
10. Beyonce f/ Slim Thug and Bun B - "Check On It"
11. Pussycat Dolls f/ Snoop Dogg - "Buttons"
12. Remy Ma - "Conceited"
13. Voltio f/ Calle 13 - “Chulin Culin Chunfly”
14. Jamie Foxx f/ Ludacris - "Unpredictable"
15. Yung Joc f/ Nitti - "It's Goin' Down"
16. Lupe Fiasco - "Kick Push"
17. Heather Headley - "In My Mind"
18. E-40 f/ Keak Da Sneak - "Tell Me When To Go"
19. Cassie - "Me & U"
20. Keyshia Cole - "Love"
21. B.G. f/ Mannie Fresh - "Move Around"
22. T.I. - “Why You Wanna”
23. Kanye West f/ Paul Wall, GLC, T.I. and Tony Williams - "Drive Slow" (Strings Remix)
24. All-American Rejects - "Move Along"
25. Gnarls Barkley - "Crazy"
26. Kirk Franklin - "Looking For You"
27. Fall Out Boy - "A Little Less 16 Candles, A Little More 'Touch Me'"
28. Twista f/ Pitbull - "Hit The Floor"
29. Rihanna - "S.O.S."
30. The Fray - "Over My Head (Cable Car)"
31. Goo Goo Dolls - "Stay With Me"
32. 50 Cent f/ Olivia - "Best Friend"
33. Raheem Devaughn - "You"
34. Lil Wayne - "Hustler Musik"
35. Pharrell Williams - "Angel"
36. Prince - "Black Sweat"
37. Dem Franchize Boyz - "Lean Wit It, Rock Wit It"
38. Pearl Jam - “World Wide Suicide”
39. Kelly Clarkson - "Walk Away"
40. Chris Brown - "Yo (Excuse Me Miss)"
41. T-Pain f/ Mike Jones - "I'm N Luv (Wit A Stripper)"
42. Daddy Yankee - "Rompe"
43. Three 6 Mafia - "Poppin' My Collar"
44. Click Five - "Catch Your Wave"
45. Morningwood - "Nth Degree"
46. Ricky Martin - "It's Alright"
47. Pussycat Dolls f/ Will.I.Am - "Beep"
48. Donnell Jones f/ Jermaine Dupri - "Better Start Talking"
49. KT Tunstall - "Black Horse And The Cherry Tree"
50. Ghostface f/ Ne-Yo - "Back Like That"

Thursday, June 29, 2006
I have no idea why it's not on the City Paper website yet, but I had a review of Click in the print edition this week, I'll add the link when/if it pops up.


Wednesday, June 28, 2006
I've been very reluctant to embrace the whole MySpace phenomenon, even after I got a page last year and didn't do anything with it for months and months. But since seemingly every musician in Baltimore has gotten on there in the last 6 months, I've finally gotten around to updating MySpace.com/GovernmentNames recently so that I can do some extra networking on there. So feel free to request an add and say hi to me on there.


Monday, June 26, 2006
Field Mob - "At The Park" (mp3)

"Blacker The Berry" is definitely the best song on Light Poles and Pine Trees, and "Baby Bend Over" and "Smilin'" appear to be the next singles, but as far as I'm concerned, "At The Park" is the Summer jam. I can barely remember what the verses are like, but all that matters is "Sunday at the paaaaaaark" and those strings. Zone 4/Polow Da Don does it again.


Sunday, June 25, 2006
So, does AFI stand for Æon Flux Impersonator now?

Saturday, June 24, 2006
Travis Morrison - "Represent" (mp3)*

I like the fact that there's a decent rock club within a 15-minute walk of my apartment now, but since I moved back to Fells Point last year, I've only gone to Fletcher's twice, both times in the past two weeks, to see the Travis Morrison on Thursday, and before that Private Eleanor. That's mainly because the number of Fletcher's shows I'm even remotely interested in seeing dropped dramatically around the time that the Ottobar moved to a larger location a few years ago and started booking the same size bands. Also, the year's almost half over, and out of the dozen or so shows I've seen this year, Thursday was only the 2nd one where a Baltimore artist wasn't the headliner and/or the act I was primarily there to see. I've just been really locally focused lately. And Travis is from D.C. so it's not even really far off.

I got there just as the first band, Madman Films, were playing the second-to-last song of their set. It sounded pretty cool, in a stereotypical DC way (like a composite of a bunch of Dischord bands with Shudder To Think-esque vocals), but then their last song was long and plodding and I kinda wished I'd seen more of their other songs. The second band, Cataract Camp, were alright. Every member of the band except the bassist sang, and the drummer had a headset mic, not a Janet Jackson-style one, but hanging from a headband directly in front of his face, which just looked super nerdy and probably uncomfortable. As a drummer, I have to respect anyone who can play and sing at the same time, because I know when I'm playing I'm too out of breath to even speak, and well, forget about being that coordinated. But the guy had a voice that was so annoying that it's hard not imagining that he was trying to sound annoying on purpose, like that scene in Dumb And Dumber where Lloyd asks if you want to hear the most annoying sound in the world. And they also had a really obnoxious sense of humor, saying stuff like "this song is about..." and then making up something inane, before every single song. That said, I liked what was going on in some of their songs musically.

The Travis Morrison Hellfighters are the band that Travis formed about a year and a half ago, after the initial keyboard-heavy touring band for Travistan, that he began writing an entirely new set of songs with. I saw them a couple times last year, and the first time I was pretty impressed by the new band and the new songs, and then the next time my enthusiasm had faded a little. Thursday was a little underwhelming too. I definitely recognized most of the same songs so I don't know if anything actually changed about the arrangements or it was just my reaction to them. When I saw them last year, he said they were going to start recording an album in July, but it's been almost a year since then with no release date in sight. They only played for about 45 minutes, all unreleased material, so even if he hasn't explicitly disowned Travistan, he's not even willing to pad the set with any of those songs anymore. I'll still stick up for that album to an extent, even if I understand the criticisms. He was always going to hook up with Death Cab people and make an acoustic album that didn't suit his voice at all at some point, but now that he's got it out of his system he can do something else. And I always really liked how it was a political record, but in a really whimsical and kind of metaphysical way, not at all the usual strident harDCore political statement. The new songs disappointingly seem to be going in a kind of bland direction, with a lot of lyrics about liking someone or being in love and so on, but maybe once there's a lyric sheet I'll find some more depth in there. There were a definitely 2 or 3 really good songs at the end of teh set, though.

*"Represent" is the hidden track on Travistan, which they played at the Talking Head last year, although not on Thursday. Hopefully it's still in their set now and then, it's probably be the best song on that album and if it had been featured more prominently, the album might not have been so maligned.

In My Stereo

Friday, June 23, 2006
Sonic Youth - Rather Ripped
Field Mob - Light Poles And Pine Trees
Young Dro/DJ Burn One - Future Legends: I Still Got That Dro
DJ Ty Boogie - Remember This 5
Pitbull - M.I.A.M.I.
D.O.G. - Walk On Air
Dirty Hartz - It Is What It Is Mixtape Vol. 1
Rod Lee - Vol. 4: The Pressure
Mullyman - Still H.I.M.
Hots - The Introduction


Wednesday, June 21, 2006
This week in the City Paper, I wrote a profile of Baltimore production duo Stay Gettin', and over at Gov't Names I posted their production discography, including a few mp3s of tracks they've done with cats like Cam'ron and Papoose as well with hometown MCs like Ogun and Tim Trees. Stay Gettin' are some really nice dudes and easily one of the best interviews I've ever done, and I'm pretty proud of how the piece turned out.

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TV Diary

Tuesday, June 20, 2006
1. Entourage
Aside from times when I stayed at my dad's house, the past year has really been the first time I've had HBO at home, and aside from finally catching up with The Wire, I pretty into Entourage reruns. It kind of pains me to like a couple HBO shows this much, considering I've always hated on The Sopranos/Sex In The City/Six Feet Under/etc. and kind of considered the whole "it's not TV, it's HBO" thing a bunch of elitist bullshit to rationalize paying extra for the channel. I don't think I'll even bother giving Deadwood or Big Love a chance. Anyway, I like Entourage even though it's not really that funny sometimes (outside of Johnny Drama, maybe the single funniest character on television right now, the washed up brother of a big Hollywood star played by Matt Dillon's washed up brother in an insanely effective bit of stunt casting). So far this season is looking pretty good, although the Ari-centric press coverage surrounding the new season is kind of weird to me. I like Jeremy Piven and Ari is a great use of his crazy asshole energy, but he doesn't really outshine the rest of the cast or anything.

2. Lucky Louie
I always liked Louis C.K. as a standup, although I never saw Pootie Tang or anything. So I was looking forward to this, especially after reading the advance press about how he was just doing a basic, old-fashioned 3-camera sitcom, but on HBO with swear words and no commercials. And it definitely has the feel of early Roseanne (complete with the bloozy background music), or even Roc, just depicting regular blue collar people really bluntly and realistically, with a set that looks convincingly like a shitty, run down apartment. At the beginning of every episode, a cast member actually says "Lucky Louie was filmed before a studio audience," which totally feels like a throwback to the Cheers era. It totally looks like it was made 15 years ago, and the first time I watched it J.G. asked me if it was a rerun of an old show. That stuff, I liked, but the show itself is pretty underwhelming. They supposedly are shooting alternate takes of every scene with the swears taken out in case they even make it to syndication, and while I'd be seriously surprised if that ever happened, I think I'd like to see those takes. They might figure out how to balance the freedom of HBO with not overusing swears and transgressive humor for its own sake later, but in the first 2 episodes it felt really forced and unfunny. And then, there were times when the dialogue resembled the way people really talk in a way that you never see on network TV. But there still weren't that many laughs. I mean, Byron Crawford thinks it was hilarious, which is a pretty good indication of how unfunny Lucky Louie is. The first episode actually began with a looong long scene of a young girl asking her father "why?" over and over. His answers eventually got kind of funny but it took a while, and overall just felt like really stale humor. It's basically a FOX show if Married With Children actually got to say all the stuff they wanted to. But even then, there was already a FOX show about a red-headed guy with a white trash family, Grounded For Life, which I always assumed was crap, but started watching reruns of recently and it's actually pretty good.

3. Dane Cook's Tourgasm
Like the Comedians Of Comedy series, this is a tour diary that focuses as much on the life of comedians on the road as what they actually do when onstage. Which makes sense, because most stand-ups do a lot of the same material night after night, so they can't really show you those jokes over and over and instead intersperse little excerpts of stand-up amongst all the travelogue stuff. Again, it's understandable, but doesn't make for very good television, considering that most comics are miserable assholes that aren't very funny offstage, or at least that's the stereotype that this show bears out. I think Dane Cook is pretty funny, and although I'd assume he's probably be annoying to hang out with in real life, he comes off fairly normal and low-key in this, it's the other guys that are nuts. None of them are particularly well known, except in the oh-I-saw-them-do-10-minutes-on-Comedy-Central-once sense, although Gary Gulman was on Last Comic Standing. He's pretty funny, although again it's frustrating because I'd like to see more than 90 seconds of his act at a time. Robert Kelly is one of those short, stocky, angry, aging comics who has a lot of generic meanspirited 'edgy' material and is probably just as much of a dick offstage, and the whole first episode was about him bumping heads with the other guy, Jay Davis, who I can scarcely believe is a working comic based on the footage they've shown of his act. There was some interesting stuff about the comic's craft where Dane encouraged him to go out and wing it on a new joke one night, and he just went out there and bombed. Maybe he'll make progress by the end of the season, but I don't know if I'll bother tuning in.

Monday, June 19, 2006
Int'l Shades - "Ride This Ride" (mp3)

When I wrote my big Two Dollar Guitar post a few months ago, I lamented the fact that Tim Foljahn had evidently fallen off the face of the earth the last few years, without even knowing that he had recently formed a new band that have already released an album. As you can tell from my Stylus review, I was not very impressed by the Int'l Shades album. At least Foljahn sings lead on "Ride This Ride," which wouldn't be anything special on a TDG album, but I'll take what I can get.

10:12pm Edit: My brother just directed me to Two Dollar Guitar's MySpace page, which has audio for a couple songs from a frigging new album that I had no idea was coming out in August. Best news I've heard all day!

Sunday, June 18, 2006
I live in one of the city's safer neighborhoods, so it's not often that my block gets shine on Baltimore Crime, but this week 400 pounds of hydro were confiscated just a few doors down from me. I don't even smoke but I feel bad for anyone who was driving all the way over West or something to cop when all that was right here in Upper Fells. The funniest thing about the article, though, is that the suspect's name is Jo(h)n Arbuckle. Don't they know that guy has a movie opening this weekend? And that it's so good it drove Roger Ebert insane?


Batman & Robin from A-Z

Saturday, June 17, 2006
The following is a recent mass email/MySpace bulletin from Josh that I felt compelled to reprint with permission here. -Al

When or if you received my text message last night where I made the bold statement “Batman & Robin is the best batman movie” you must’ve thought I was on drugs and just making an outlandish statement for the sake of making an outlandish statement. While I do like making outlandish statements I don’t truly believe, I stand by what I said.

When you said at champagne brunch that “Batman” needs to be revisited as an adult to be appreciated I was intrigued and thought yes I should watch that again.

I discovered though, the strange voyage of the Batman franchise can be best enjoyed through the prism of watching Batman Begins followed by Batman & Robin.

a) George Clooney is a fantastic Batman, not because he’s perfect for the archetypical “Batman” character, but rather for his portrayal of Batman in B&R. Batman in B&R is bored, jaded & enjoying the spoils of being a playboy. This Batman stuff is old to him. No more one man vigilante taking back the city. He’s recruiting kids to join him on his escapades and has them do the heavy lifting.

b) The cast: George Clooney, Uma Thurman – this should’ve sunk their careers, but they survived unscathed (for obvious reasons – Clooney is the most charming man on Earth, and Uma has Quintin Tarantino). Chris O’Donnell, Alicia Silverstone – megafailures. They have no right to share the screen with Clooney & Thurman. Then throw in Schwarzenegger. He’s the fucking Governor of California right now. His opponents should’ve chopped this movie up for campaign commercials and surely no one would’ve taken him seriously enough to get elected.

c) Schwarzenegger – He plays Dr. Freeze as if people demanded a reprise of his character from Last Action Hero. Its jarring at first. But everything that comes out of his mouth is a pun that refers to being cold. After he shoots one of his goons for interrupting him while he’s watching something, he turns to the screen and tells us “I Ate When Peepul Tawk During Deh Moo-vee”

d) Said Goon, and & “the man at the airport” are the only 2 people who die during the entire movie. In fact people generally are never in peril in this film. It is very hard to think of any other movie, any genre, that has a lower body count.

e) At one point Bruce Wayne & Robin are arguing because Poison Ivy has Robins head all mixed up that he should get a larger piece of the glory. At the end of his last point in the argument, Clooney throws in a (you) DICK This is jarring because its so out of the character of the movie, you think to yourself is Robins name Dick?* Nope, Clooney, just ad libbed calling Robin a dick. Amazing.

f) Dr. Freeze’s wife is being kept alive in some water chamber until some disease she and Alfred has can be cured. Poison Ivy unplugs her and kills her. She then tells Dr. Freeze Batman did it. She then tells Dr. Freeze they should team up to destroy Batman, no not just Batman, but the society that created him!

g) Said Goon, BANE, with the head being pumped with steroids. It is being pumped in via thin rubber tubes outside his enormous body suits. How does Batman defeat him? He simply pulls those thin tubes out.

h) In Batman, the joker becomes the joker because Batman drops him into a vat of acid, in Batman & Robin when Robin starts fighting with Batman because he’s under Poison Ivy’s spell, Robin gets dropped into a vat of ice cream.

i) In Batman Begins & Batman, Batman is as much an Enemy to the police as the bad guys. In Batman & Robin, I am pretty sure he’s on the police force’s payroll as a consultant. When Poison Ivy, Bane and Dr. Freeze get away during the big fight in the middle. The Commissioner busts in is like “What the fuck!? Way to go Batman” Meanwhile, this fight scene last like 15 minutes. Were the cops outside just watching saying “well, let’s just let these clowns in the ridiculous costumes fight it out amongst themselves” And why wouldn’t they. Its not like anybody had any guns, like I said earlier, nobody is ever EVER in any peril at any point during this movie.

j) At a later crime scene, Batman & Robin shows up in costume and starts reviewing the evidence with the police. Watching Clooney and O’Donnell walk around and talk with people all normally in these ridiculous outfits is a sight to behold. Especially in contrast to Batman Begins, where you would never see Batman just stand around in his costume around a bunch people, no less a well lit public space.

k) By the way, Robin’s outfit doesn’t really hide his identity. He just has some shit wrapping around his eyes, that are like sunglasses, but since you can see his eyes I’m guessing it would be pretty easy to recognize him on the street.

l) The Bat Signal: This goes for all the movies I suppose, but when there’s trouble does he just go to center of the city and wait? Does he go to the police station to get orders from the chief? What are the chances he will be looking into the sky when they shoot it up? Does he have to make sure to check the sky every 15 minutes if the bat signal is up? What if it’s a clear night and it doesn’t have a cloud to reflect the sign off of and it just looks like a regular spotlight? The Bat Signal is cute, but completely & utterly useless and impractical.

m) There are stupid bat-logos on everything, and then there’s robin logos, and then batgirl logos. I mean obviously Alfred has a metal shop in the basement and has the strength of a 1600’s blacksmith. But in this movie Alfred is dying. Who made all that shit? Its not exactly the kinda thing you can outsource, since you risk giving up your secret identity for something extremely, and I mean EXTREMELY trite. Like the monks in the beginning of Batman Begins, is creating all your huge metal logos like a test of your will and dedication for Robin and Batgirl.

n) For the final big fight scene, Batman, Robin, and Batgirl all have special black and silver costumes. Aside from the hot new color schemes there’s no indication these suits have any special features designed to assist them in fighting in the cold environs of Dr. Freeze’s lair.

o) Continuing with some thoughts on the big final scene, but not chronologically, Batman, Robin, and Batgirl are falling to their deaths when batman shoots his grappling hook through the ceiling. It’s a frozen incredible thin ceiling and the grappling hook busts a big hole through it. It’s not like its busts through like a thin missle and then expands. It just busts a big hole and latches on to it. Either a) it would go through the hole and the would continuing falling or b) it would lose its grip on the ceiling in a second and they would continue falling. To their death.

p) I don’t think theirs an apt comparison to how Uma as Poison Ivy talks, but its fucking ridiculous. Like Zsa Zsa Gabor doing Shakespeare ….or Mel Brooks.

q) Poison Ivy’s dust that makes guys fall in love with her and become completely under her spell. The massive pink dust lines that cloud the head and go right up their nose – that’s just metaphorical right? The characters can’t actually see that, right???

r) Poison Ivy and Bane bust Dr. Freeze out of prison. They have absolutely no trouble getting in, Bane is wrecking like 20 guards at a time, and then when they are all together in Dr. Freeze’s cell, they panic. Oh no! Guards! Um. You had no trouble with them 5 minutes ago. Poison Ivy – blow some fairy dust on em and Bane can stompdashitoutdem. Instead they bust a hole in the prison and jump many many many many stories down to the water. (where they’d probably die on impact)

s) Finally, Dr. Freeze’s big plot is to cover Gotham city in Ice. His plans to do this is to take this great new Telescope that all of Gotham is very excited about (Bruce Wayne is at the Gala celebrating its completion!). Take the great new Telescope, put some crystals under it, and then coordinate satellites in space to power it up to shoot ice all over the city. From the telescope. Basically, he applied the principle of killing ants with a magnifying glass and applied it to a telescope. To shoot? Ice? Where’s the water coming from? The satellites in space?

t) So the city is covered in Ice. Big deal. Wait til morning when the sun comes up. Batman instead decides to reprogram the satellites, and the telescope (?) to shoot a heat ray to thaw the ice. Frankly that seems very dangerous. It’s a thin line between dethawing and being burnt to a crisp.

u) The most remarkable part of that scene is how Batman is able to pull all this off. With zero prep time. He was at the party. He didn’t come into that with a plan… at all. He looks so fucking bored in this scene, and its wonderful

v) Batman has Dr. Freeze on the ropes, and informs him that he didn’t kill his wife. To prove this, Batman pulls out some video of Poison Ivy telling Batgirl she’ll “KILL HER LIKE I KILLED NORA FREEZE!” while they were fighting... So Batman was just standing there filming their fight? Think about it – Batman is so jaded, instead of fighting evil he’d rather film two chicks fighting. George Clooney is so cool.

w) Sometime in the beginning or end of this scene Batman is rolling in what can only be described as an Iceplane. Was it worth the millions of dollars in construction and development to use it that one and only time it could come in handy. I mean, I’m sure Batman would’ve been fine without it.

x) Sometime in the middle of the film Robin and Batgirl participate in some Mad Max style Bike race. Theres pyrotechnics everywhere, everybody has on a wonderfully elaborate costume – the logistics of pulling off that kinda party must’ve been hair-raising! Kudos to the organizers!

y) Dr. Freeze has seemingly limitless goons – but we never see them before they go into battle, and I find it hard to believe that Dr. Freeze can gain the allegiance of any man on this planet. Leadership is a skill.

z) So as mentioned above Batman tries to talk Dr. Freeze into giving him the cure to Alfred’s disease after proving to him he didn’t kill his wife. Well Dr. Freeze does just that, gives him the cure. Dr. Freeze loses all of his leverage. So what does Batman do? He lets him free and Dr. Freeze puts back on his costume, which gives him all his powers so he can go get Poison Ivy. Get, not kill, because we know only “the man at the airport” that is spoken about so often is the only person that dies during this movie. I said two people died earlier, but I’m pretty sure the goon I was referring to Dr. Freeze killing, was only frozen temporarily.

The most important thing to remember about Batman & Robin is that the total body count is: 1.

And that’s just hearsay. He probably pulled through at the hospital.

*(editor's note: I've been informed Robin's name is in fact Dick Grayson, but really it seems like Clooney is just calling him a dick)

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Thursday, June 15, 2006
After I made a mix for J.G.'s brother a few months ago, their mom heard it and liked it, "The Ice Of Boston" in particular, and to my surprise, requested that I make a CD for her too. So now pretty much that whole family has mix CDs from me. She's pretty open minded for her age, but then, my taste is pretty classic rock-oriented when it comes to even newer rock music, so it wasn't too hard for me to make it accessible for her, and I included a lot of the same artists from John's mix, although mostly different songs. I think it came out pretty well. The Michael Bublé track was one that J.G. asked me to grab off iTunes and include, but that song is actually kinda growin' on me.

1. Ted Leo/Pharmacists - "Timorous Me"
2. Apollo Sunshine - "Today Is The Day"
3. The B-52's - "Private Idaho"
4. The Dismemberment Plan - "The Ice Of Boston"
5. The Posies - "Conversations"
6. Elliott Smith - "Angeles"
7. The Who - "5'15"
8. Spymob - "Walking Under Green Leaves"
9. John Mellencamp - "Cherry Bomb"
10. Ben Folds Five - "Philosophy
11. Talking Heads - "Thank You For Sending Me An Angel"
12. Elvis Costello & The Attractions - "High Fidelity"
13. They Might Be Giants - "Don't Let's Start"
14. Rufus Wainwright - "April Fools"
15. Brendan Benson - "What I'm Looking For"
16. Chris Lee - "Lonesome Eyes"
17. Private Eleanor - "On Our Side"
18. Randy Newman - "Baltimore"
19. Michael Bublé - "Home"
20. Jeff Buckley - "Satisfied Mind"

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Wednesday, June 14, 2006
Private Eleanor - "Photocopy of a Photocopy of a Photograph" '05 (mp3)

I've written about Private Eleanor, my friend Chris's band, a few times here before. And ever since J.G. borrowed my copy of their last album she's become a fan herself, so when they played at a club right in our neighborhood, Fletchers, on Sunday, of course we had to go check it out. They were opening for the Starlight Mints and Dios (Malos), and were the first band on the bill, so we got there good and early, around 8. We ran into Chris outside the club as he was carrying cymbals from his car, and he said they'd be starting between 8:30 and 9. So we went down the street to the record store, Sound Garden, and got some food at the Indian place next door, and chilled. When we got into the club at 8:30, they were already playing, although I guess we didn't miss too much of their set.

Fletcher's has kind of crappy sound sometimes, it's a good small room, but I think maybe the weird shape of the room and ceiling and all the rafters fuck up the acoustics. So they could've sounded better, but Private Eleanor still played a good show. They played at least one or two new songs, one of which I really liked. Chris added some tasty hi-hat action to "Seventeen," and got to rock out a bit within the constraints of the band's Simon & Garfunkel soft rock style (which I do not say disparagingly, I've been way into Simon & Garfunkel lately, shit, I drive a car named Cecilia). "Photocopy of a Photocopy of a Photograph" is definitely one of their best and most popular songs, although it's a little uncharacteristic, being so short and kind of aggressive, and they seem to end every show with it. It originally appeared on one of their earlier albums, but the version above is a re-recording from the sessions for their last album that's available on the audio section of their website.

We didn't stay for the Starlight Mints or Dios (Malos), who I've never heard, but the next act were this band from Austin, The Octopus Project , who were kind of a pleasant surprise. As they prepared for their set, they were setting up all kinds of props and decorations, like these green tarps over their amps that had ears and eyes and made their amp stacks look like crude Gumby-shaped monsters. And just before they started playing, all four members of the band donned these masks that looked like three prong electrical outlets, which, when worn on a human head, kind of look like a face with a mouth and two eyes. The weirdest part, though, was that they wore the masks on the sides of their faces, so that they could still face each other and look at their instruments, which was kind of brilliant. But the guitarists headbanged a lot and by the end of the first song they had all shook off or taken off their masks. Usually a bunch of props and schtick like this are an instant turnoff for me (see Peelander Z), but in spite of it all I actually liked these guys. They played these chugging instrumentals with big, warm keyboard melodies, nothing that hasn't been in the musical vocabulary of hundreds of indie bands over the past ten years, but still pretty enjoyable. And the girl keyboardist was maybe the greatest theremin player I've ever seen. I mean, it's not exactly a traditional instrument where it's easy to measure the talent of how one plays it, but she really had some masterful hand control and in one particular song played a solo of sorts that was pretty amazing. I don't know if I'd buy another album, but I'd definitely see them again.

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Tuesday, June 13, 2006
DJ Khaled featuring Brisco, Dirt E Red, Dela, Lunch Money, CO From Piccalo, Hennessy, and P.M. - "The Future Of Dade" (mp3)

Listennn is a pretty good all-star hip hop clusterfuck, but I think my favorite track is the one buried at the end with no mainstream stars on it, largely because of the Diaz Brothers' ridiculous production on the track. I really need to check for more stuff by them.

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.

DJ Khaled
Listennn...The Album
Koch Entertainment
Stylus rating: B
Adjusted rating by reviewer: B

The history of official DJ compilations that rise above the for-promotional-use-only mixtape market is dicey at best. In the past, New Yorkers like DJ Clue, Funkmaster Flex, and DJ Kay Slay have issued retail albums, and even today tastemakers like DJ Drama are getting major label deals. But the days of Clue going Platinum are over, and with street mixtapes more prevalent than ever, such albums tend to wind up in a weird middle ground, like a soundtrack with no movie to cross-promote. They rarely get glowing reviews, have a short shelf life, and are put together by leak fiends who end up spilling most of the good material on the street well before the real thing hits stores.

With those factors stacked against him (not to mention being signed to Koch Records), DJ Khaled has built an impressive buzz for his first official release, Listennn...The Album. It helps that he's got connections to a respected crew (Terror Squad), has a monster single ("Holla At Me"), and represents a city on the rise (Miami). Miami may end up stealing 2006 from the Bay Area, with heavily-hyped albums from Rick Ross, Dre (of Cool & Dre), and Pitbull dropping in the next few months. All three of them have multiple appearances on Listennn and a hand in "Holla At Me," along with Lil Wayne, Paul Wall, and part-time Miami resident Fat Joe.

Although the Palestinian-American Khaled a.k.a. Beat Novacaine proved his production skills on Fat Joe's All or Nothing, he presents Listennn primarily as a DJ, and only produces three tracks, one of which is a brief intro. One of those tracks, however, "Where You At" by Freeway and the Clipse, is one of the hottest tracks on the album, all humming organs, regal brass, and watery wah-wah drama. For his part, Khaled doesn't do much to distinguish Listennn from a mixtape, shouting over tracks with a tremendously annoying voice, bizarrely reminding you of the release date of the album you're listening to, and pronouncing Listennn by stuttering the L, but not the three N's. Even the cover is by mixtape artwork king Miami Kaos.

The most consistent sound on the album comes from Cool & Dre, who produce five tracks. One of the best production teams in mainstream hip-hop at the moment, they're a welcome presence right up until "Movement" by Dre, perhaps the most dreadful producer-turned-rapper yet.

In addition to the ridiculous roster of guests, Listennn boasts a handful of interesting collabos. On "Problem" he unites the formerly beefing Beanie Sigel and Jadakiss, and "Destroy You" features the also formerly beefing Twista and Bone Thugs-N-Harmony. Aside from a few posse cuts, though, most of the bigger stars on the album bring their own entourages and stick to their usual sound. Young Jeezy brings Slick Pulla and Bloodraw with him on "Gangsta Shit," Young Dro and Big Kuntry tag along with T.I. on "Dip Slide Ride Out," and Kanye West shows up with Consequence and John Legend in tow. Kanye in particular stays on his A-game with "Grammy Family," an unexpectedly dark banger for a track ostensibly about all the statuettes on his mantle.

Khaled constantly represents Miami and Dade County throughout Listennn, not the least on the all-star anthem "Born N Raised" featuring Trick Daddy, Pitbull, and Rick Ross. Surprisingly, that track's thunder is stolen by the no-star album closer, "The Future of Dade," a 6-minute parade of lesser known locals Brisco, Dirt E Red, Dela, Lunch Money, Co from Piccalo, Hennessy, and P.M. Most of the track's success is owed to the amazing beat by Pitbull associates the Diaz Brothers, but several of the up-and-comers shine.

Executive produced by Khaled, Fat Joe, and "The Streets" (presumably not Mike Skinner), Listennn ultimately does little besides sum up the state of rap in June 2006 with a sizable number of its most ubiquitous artists. There are several bangers that have a good chance of becoming summer anthems, but "Holla At Me" could just as easily be the album's only hit. Or it may open the floodgates for a Miami hit parade. In an era wherein even mixtapes only have a buzz for more than a couple weeks if they're the work of a single artist or crew, a DJ compilation has to be better than just pretty good. Luckily, Listennn is.

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Movie Diary

Monday, June 12, 2006
The Omen
J.G. and I went to see this on opening night with all the other obnoxious kids that thought it would be cool to see it on 6/6/06. In fact, that seems to be the only day people saw it, considering it the broke box office record for a Tuesday opening but came in 4th for the following weekend. There were these teenagers in the row in front of us that were so freaked out by the movie, the whole time I kept whispering to J.G. that I wanted to sneak up behind them, lean over them and yell BOO, I swear if I did they would've run right out of the theater. The movie itself was alright, pretty good actually. I'd never seen the original, but J.G. had and said it was pretty faithful, and to me it even retained the vibe of 70's horror movies like The Shining and The Exorcist, which I love, all those long quiet scenes full of suspense. The spooky vibe was helped by all the creepy-looking old people they cast, too. Especially Mia Farrow. Kobayashi was awesome too. When he was trying to tell the main character that his son was Satan, I kept waiting for him to say Damien was really Keyser Soze. I don't know if Damien was cast well, though, there are a lot of little children that can look both convincingly innocent while also sometimes otherworldly and evil, but he wasn't one of them. Most of the time when he was onscreen, the audience was kind of laughing at him. Julia Stiles didn't annoy me as much as she usually does, but I'd never seen Liev Schreiber in anything before, and for the whole first half of the movie I couldn't stop staring at his weirdly shaped nose.


R.I.P. Shelby, 1997-2006

Saturday, June 10, 2006

On Friday, I got a call from my dad that he and his girlfriend Linda were going to take their Great Dane, Shelby, to the vet I reccomended to them a while back, and have her put to sleep. I only live a few blocks away, and I went over there a couple times that day to spent a few last hours with Shelby, and J.G. came with me and took some pictures of her. I was pretty choked up for most of the day, except for when I was actually there with Shelby, because I could never help smiling when she was around.

We all knew it had been coming for a while, since she'd been limping and not walking on her front right leg much for the last month or two. I always took care of Shelby for Dad whenever they were out of town, and did it a couple times in the last few months. And the last time I looked after her for a few days, her leg was so bad I could barely get her to walk across the street to go pee. Apparently cancer is very common in large breeds, but we weren't sure that was it until pretty recently, and the last few days the lump in her shoulder got bigger and bigger. But she was 9 years old, and 8 is the average lifespan for a Dane, so she lived a good, long life.

When Dad started dating Linda maybe 6 or 7 years ago, he hadn't a dog in about 30 years, and wasn't planning on having one. But he was just crazy about Shelby, who ended up moving into his house a few months before Linda even did. One year, for Valentine's Day, her gift was to sign ownership of Shelby over to him, so if they ever split up he'd keep the dog. Dad spoiled that dog so much, feeding her half of his dinner sometimes. And the last few years since he's retired and been spending a lot of his days at home alone, Shelby became really important to him and I think kinda kept him sane. I'd never had a dog or considered myself a dog person before, but Shelby and I got along really well. We used to say that Shelby's heirarchy of loyalty went Linda, then Dad, then me, then certain other family members, then everybody else. She'd love playing tug-of-war with me and an old shirt or towel, always jumped up on her hind legs and put her front paws on my shoulders when I came to see her.

I have a lot of great memories of Shelby, most of which are pretty basic dog things and wouldn't be particularly interesting stories to those that didn't know her. But she was a great dog with a really sweet personality. She was small for a Dane, so people always assumed she was a puppy, which she still acted like, even when her muzzle started turning gray. I used to walk her through the neighborhood and I swear every other person in Southeast Baltimore knew Shelby by name, even if they didn't know who me or my dad was. And I know I won't be the only person who'll miss her. Dad is really an emotional mess right now. The last few years, he'd talk about maybe getting another Great Dane someday, and Linda always sounded like she didn't want another dog, but the other day he said they'd already started looking on adoption sites for a Great Dane puppy, so Shelby may have a successor.


Friday, June 09, 2006
This week in the City Paper, I reviewed a couple local releases by Barnes and Backland, and as usual I've got mp3s from both albums over on Gov't Names.

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In My Stereo

Thursday, June 08, 2006
DJ Khaled - Listennn...The Album
G.O.O.D. Music - The Class Of '06
Carla Bozulich - Evangelista
Spymob - Basement Tapes
Our Lady Peace - Healthy In Paranoid Times
Reggie Reg - The 9 O'Clock Mix
Ray Victory/DJ Nelly Nell - Ready 2 Go
The Black Family - The City Is Ours
360 - Straight Outta 360
UnReal - Street Heat 2

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Wednesday, June 07, 2006
Karmella's Game - "Skip The Funeral" (mp3)

Karmella's Game might be my favorite rock band in Baltimore right now, ever since I caught a show by them about a year and a half ago. I've talked about them here a little bit before, and ranked them as the 3rd best live show I saw in 2005. Their sound is a kind of super girly synth-driven power pop that, if I just heard on record, would never leap out as something I want to hear, but their live show completely won me over by virtue of them being a totally tight band that isn't afraid of showmanship.

Last Friday, they played a release party for their first full-length album, The Art of Distraction, at the Ottobar, and it was nice to see them pack in a good crowd at a slightly bigger venue after seeing them fill up the Talking Head a couple times. At shows they usually wear these kind of private school uniforms, and all look like teenagers anyway, but on Friday they dressed up more like they were going to the prom. And they went all out, starting the show by playing the album's one quiet song, "The Remains," with the band's bassist on cello and three violinists joining in for a string quartet effect. They played for an hour and probably went through every single song they have. I'd been kind of holding out on seeing them for a while, because I was really waiting for the album to come out. The only thing they'd released previously, an EP that's now almost 3 years old, really doesn't capture the greatness of their live show, so I wanted to be able to finally take home a copy of all the newer songs they'd been playing. And the album still isn't quite all I'd hoped, but it's close enough. Not so close that I won't have to keep checking out shows to get the full effect, though.

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Narrowcast loves VH1 Classic

Sunday, June 04, 2006
Bette Midler - "Beast of Burden"
Krudler's cover of one of my favorite Stones slowies is pretty straightforward, but the video is completely wacky, with Mick Jagger, who doesn't sing on her version of the song at all, dancing around and mugging it up with her like "Dancing In The Street" Part 2. Completely nuts.

Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show - "Baby Makes Her Blue Jeans Talk"
An incredibly enthusiastic celebration of lechery, wherein a guy that looks like Rod Stewart wearing a fake beard and an eye patch follows a woman in excruciatingly tight jeans down the street and narrates as she catches the eye of every man she passes.

Accept - "Balls To The Wall"
An old chestnut from Beavis & Butthead that's almost as entertaining without their commentary, mainly because it appears to be an AC/DC tribute band fronted by Patton Oswalt.

Love And Rockets - "Ball of Confusion (That's What The World Is Today)"
A bunch of British haircuts' morose cover of one of Motown's token political hits might be the worst thing I've ever heard, but then, I haven't heard Anthrax or Duran Duran's versions of the same song.

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Movie Diary

Friday, June 02, 2006
1. X-Men: The Last Stand
I thought X2 was better than the first one, and I always kinda figured, out of all the superhero franchises, X-Men was the one that had so many characters and potential storylines that I'd actually want to see sequel after sequel, so it was kind of dismaying to hear early reports over the past year about this one killing off several characters and seeming to wrap up the end of the trilogy. I managed to stay away from full-on spoilers enough that I was genuinely shocked by one particular death, and not in a good way. In fact, I was kinda pissed.

The movie itself was alright, less bland than the first one, but kind of punishingly dark and violent at points like War Of The Worlds was, where at some point you kind of feel beaten down by all the noise and explosions and emotionally wrenching plot twists. It also felt kinda disjointed sometimes, especially with Ben Foster's Angel character, who was hyped up as the big new character in this movie, but ended up having only a handful of scenes that were mostly backstory adding up to not much in the end. And a lot of characters having limited screen time to make room for boring ass Storm was a lame trade-off. I cracked up every time Kelsey Grammer was onscreen as Beast, though. That shit was inspired. I was kind of surprised by the Juggernaut quoting a web meme, Snakes On A Plane-style, although it wasn't that funny.

2. The Girl in the Café
Pretty good HBO original movie that I caught on TV recently. A lot of the basics of the plot screamed Lost In Translation knockoff (older man and younger woman who barely know each other have weird semi-romantic relationship over the course of a few days in a hotel in a foreign land), but it had a little more going on with the political subtext of taking place during the G8 conference. Still, it felt a little thin and contrived, and got by mostly on the talent of the two leads. Bill Nighy is great, although I don't know if I can watch him oversell a meek character without being reminded of his perfect turn as Slartibartfast. Kelly Macdonald's accent is just adorable, too.

3. Mad City
I thought I had seen or at least seen trailers for every mid-late 90's Travolta flick from the post-Pulp Fiction avalanche, but somehow I don't remember even hearing of this one at all before catching it on TV recently. It was a little overwrought in making its points about media manipulation, but it was still pretty good, particularly for Dustin Hoffman's character. I think the weirdest thing that I remember about it, though, is that John Landis had a small role for no apparent reason, and had no other involvement in the film.

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Thursday, June 01, 2006
Producer Series Mix #2: Rich Harrison

1. Missy Elliott - "Can't Stop"
2. Toni Braxton - "Take This Ring" (mp3)
3. Tha Rayne f/ Joe Budden - "Didn't You Know" Remix (mp3)
4. Kelly Rowland - "Can't Nobody" (mp3)
5. Destiny's Child f/ T.I. and Lil Wayne - "Soldier"
6. Beyonce f/ Jay-Z - "Crazy In Love"
7. Alicia Keys - "Dragon Days" (mp3)
8. Jennifer Lopez f/ Fabolous - "Get Right" Remix
9. Jennifer Lopez - "Whatever You Wanna Do"
10. The Pussycat Dolls - "I Don't Need A Man"
11. Amerie - "Why Don't We Fall In Love"
12. Amerie - "Why Don't We Fall In Love" Remix
13. Amerie - "1 Thing"
14. Amerie - "Talkin' About"
15. Amerie - "Talkin' To Me"
16. Amerie - "I Just Died" (mp3)
17. Amerie f/ Carl Thomas - "Can We Go"
18. Amerie - "Rolling Down My Face"
19. Amerie - "All I Need"
20. Amerie - "Come With Me"

By no means an obscure producer, but I wanted to put together a solid mix of his best stuff, half Amerie and half other artists. If you want a more complete discography, you can go here, but I went for a personal selection, starting off with a handful of my favorite kinda underrated tracks, so none of his boring Mary J. Blige tracks or that weird Duran Duran single. I think my favorite thing about RH, more than just the heavy Go-Go percussion or brassy samples, is the way he waits patiently to add textures and melodic embellishments, like the piano chords that drop in more than halfway into "Talkin' About," or all the layers that gradually accumulate throughout "Can't Nobody." I'll note that the "Get Right" remix is the one with the Fab verse and the original beat, not the weird synthy beat on the video version.

Previously in the Producer Series: Shondrae "Bangladesh" Crawford

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