the first 5 months of 2007

Thursday, May 31, 2007
1. Sloan - Never Hear The End Of It
2. Prodigy - Return Of The Mac
3. Parts & Labor - Mapmaker
4. Ted Leo - Living With The Living
5. R. Kelly - Double Up
6. Jarvis Cocker - Jarvis
7. Nine Inch Nails - Year Zero
8. Eleni Mandell - Miracle Of Five
9. Dinosaur Jr. - Beyond
10. They Might Be Giants - The Else

Still loving: Sloan and Prodigy. Insurgent: Kells and Parts & Labor. Not really high right now but I suspect will stay at about the same spot on the list for the rest of the year while a lot of the stuff above it slips further and further down: Eleni Mandell. Need to spend more time with to really figure out how I feel about: Jarvis and NIN.

1. R. Kelly f/ T.I. and T-Pain - “I’m A Flirt (Remix)”
2. Swizz Beatz - “It’s Me Bitches”
3. Fantasia - “When I See U”
4. Red Hot Chili Peppers - “Hump De Bump”
5. Kelly Rowland f/ Eve - “Like This”
6. DJ Khaled f/ Akon, T.I., Rick Ross, Fat Joe, Birdman and Lil Wayne – "We Taking Over"
7. Maroon 5 - “Makes Me Wonder”
8. Natasha Bedingfield - “I Wanna Have Your Babies”
9. My Chemical Romance - “Teenagers”
10. Amerie - “Gotta Work”
11. The Game f/ Kanye West - “Wouldn’t Get Far”
12. R. Kelly f/ Usher - “Same Girl”
13. Diddy f/ Keyshia Cole, Big Boi, Yung Joc, Rich Boy, and The Game - “Last Night (Remix)”
14. Justin Timberlake - “Until The End Of Time”
15. Fabolous f/ Swizz Beatz - “Return of The Hustle”
16. Young Jeezy f/ Keyshia Cole - “Dreamin’”
17. Nelly Furtado - “All Good Things (Come To An End)”
18. Huey f/ T-Pain and Bow Wow - “Pop, Lock & Drop It (Remix)”
19. Bow Wow f/ T Pain - “Outta My System”
20. Kanye West, Rakim, Nas and KRS One - “Classic”

Still actively resisting: "Umbrella," "Party Like A Rockstar," "Lip Gloss." Finally giving into grudgingly, after months of active resistance: the blatant Prince rips and faux-LinnDrum action on "Last Night" and large sections of that Justin album, the last track of which R&B radio has picked up on and made me obsessed with. Finally giving into with complete, joyful abandon: all things T-Pain, except "Buy U A Drank." Still loving regardless of anyone giving a shit either way: "When I See U," "I Wanna Have Your Babies," "Hump De Bump." So relieved they finally released a single I like, after 3 in a row that I was completely ambivalent towards: "Teenagers," "All Good Things (Come To An End)." Can't believe that this is the best they can come up with to try and overcome the huge slump in rap album sales: "Can't Tell Me Nothing," "Big Shit Poppin'," "Amusement Park."


Netflix Diary

Wednesday, May 30, 2007
1. Brick
J.G. and I got so hyped up for this from the trailer that was at the beginning of a couple recent rentals. But I have to say, it was a bit of a disappointment. I participated a little in the ILM debate about this movie's merits, and I mostly came out on the anti- side. There just wasn't enough of a bridge between the hard boiled neo-noir dialogue and the modern high school setting to really make it work, it just came off ridiculous. I mean, Veronica Mars proved you can do noir in that setting while still letting the characters talk like believably chatty teenagers. This movie didn't need to do the same approach, but the approach it went with fell kinda flat.

2. The West Wing - Season 1
As Studio 60 floundered in the ratings and got progressively worse with each episode and eventually got cancelled, I finally got around to checking out The West Wing, which I probably should've watched all along as much as I liked Sports Night, but just never watched when it was on. I've heard that it didn't really get good until after the first season, but so far I'm enjoying this, so maybe sometime between now and 2010 I'll check out the other seasons.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007
They Might Be Giants - "The Cap'm" (mp3)

A couple weeks ago, They Might Be Giants put their new album, The Else, on iTunes, almost 2 months before its official release in stores. I haven't really bought a new album by them in a long time, but considering that several of my favorite albums of 2007 so far are by bands who I cared a lot more about 10 years ago (Dinosaur Jr., Nine Inch Nails, Sloan), it seemed like a good time to give them a fair shot again. They're still an irredeemably dorky band to like, maybe even more than back in the day now that they're pandering more and more to their cult audience and haven't had a radio hit in years. But I think their early records have aged about as well as any other goofy college rock band of that era.

It's hard to say if They Might Be Giants jumped the shark at some point, or if they just shifted their focus to specialty projects like Venue Songs and albums geared toward children/parents, instead of regular TMBG records. The Else doesn't make a really strong argument that they're still at the top of their game as anything other than a touring act that still plays the old hits, though. These days most of Flansburgh only seems to write or sing generic, obnoxious tracks like "Take Out The Trash" and "Feign Amnesia" that sound like they were written in the time it takes to play them. Linnell still has some of his old songwriting spark, though, and "Cap'm" is easily the best uptempo song on the album. The lyrics are kind of inanely clever, but it's really all about the weird chord changes in the chorus, and the shoutalong harmonies. The weirder downtempo stuff like "With The Dark" and "Careful What You Pack" are probably the most impressive parts of The Else, but right now "The Cap'm is the one I keep playing over and over, even if it's probably more comparable to a mid-period highlight like "'Til My Head Falls Off" than one of the classics.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Scratch isn't so much my favorite music magazine as it is the only rag I actually go to the newsstand to cop every single issue of anymore. Even now that they're increasingly putting more rappers and less producers (or even producer/rappers) on the cover, it's about as close to my ideal rap mag as there is, more about the recording process than the cult of personality of some MC who's usually a lousy interview anyway. So I'm pretty thrilled that my first piece of writing in a national print publication is in the new issue of Scratch, which should be in stores in the next week or so. My piece is just a little Boiling Point profile of The Bakery, the kids who produced Huey's "Pop, Lock & Drop It," but hey, it's a start. Big thanks to Noz for thinking to give me the gig. I'm still a little squeamish about the gradual blogger takeover of music writing, but I can't complain when dudes like him get editorial positions, especially when I'm a benefactor. I mean, it's nice to get paid for the nerding out on rap production that I'd do in my spare time anyway.


Movie Diary

Friday, May 25, 2007
1. V For Vendetta
I didn't watch this with any particular expectations, but I really enjoyed it. It was a little campy and over the top, but also made some genuinely thought-provoking observations about society and was emotionally involving. In other words, what everyone said about The Matrix that I never really agreed with at all. Also, considering that this is primarily known as the movie Natalie Portman shaved her head for, she has pretty gorgeous hair for more than half of it.

2. She's The Man
Perhaps the best cross-dressing soccer comedy since Ladybugs? I generally like Amanda Bynes but I think she's already hitting that unfortunate former teen movie star phase where she just doesn't seem as cute as she used to be, but hasn't made the transition to adult hotness either. And making her dress up as a boy for half the movie comes off more creepy-looking than I think it's meant to be. Still kind of an enjoyable flick, though.

3. Just My Luck
A movie as incompetently, horrendously bad as this, on the other hand, reminds you how many things have to go right for a movie to be even as modestly good as She's The Man. Of course, where Bynes is nobly holding onto the cuteness of her youth, Lohan has been willfully evaporating it with every public move she makes. I always cringe at stock "what else can go wrong?" comedy devices, but it's kind of entertaining, in a pathetic way, to watch this movie go through every single one of them like it's checking off a row of boxes. And the whole movie is a thinly veiled infomercial for McFly's latest doomed attempt to break through in America. We actually have to watch those kids act for a large chunk of the running time. On the plus side, Bree Turner is a babe.

4. Joe Versus The Volcano
I'd seen bits and pieces of this over the years, and I have some friends who swear by it, but I never really sat down to watch this whole movie until recently, and I'm glad I finally did. I don't know what's more amazing, that this seems to be the only comedy that the writer/director ever made, or how any one of the 3 characters Meg Ryan plays is a more impressive role than anything else in her entire career. It's just a perfect balance of absurdity, romance, and mystery. I think if I was writing a screenplay this is one of the movies I'd hold up as a role model for what I'd try to accomplish.

In My Stereo

Thursday, May 24, 2007
They Might Be Giants - The Else
Common - Resurrection
Int'l Shades - Hash Wednesday
Jaheim - Ghetto Classics
Ruth Ruth - Laughing Gallery
T.I. - King
Donald Fagen - Morph The Cat
Prince - 3121
Juvenile - Reality Check
50 Cent - Get Rich Or Die Tryin'

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007
Senor Pants: TI makes pop records like why you wanna and TIP makes pop records like what you know
Al: lol
Al: TI scowls and wears an expensive watch, TIP scowls and wears an expensive watch
Al: it should've been "T.I. tilts his hat to the left, T.I.P. tilts his hat to the right"
Senor Pants: TI dances like an idiot in young dro videos and TIP dances like an idiot in TI videos
Al: lol
Senor Pants: lolol
Al: T.I.P. makes songs like "Big Shit Poppin'," T.I. makes radio edits like "Big Things Poppin'"
Senor Pants: i hope 50 cent reiterates his remarks about studying "split personality albums" and how they don't sell
Senor Pants: hahaha
Al: 50 Cent is shirtless and covered in baby oil, Curtis is just shirtless


Saturday, May 19, 2007
More Stylus Jukebox stuff, mostly shit as usual:

Omarion - Beg For It [6/6.5]
Gwen Stefani - 4 In The Morning [4/5.2]
R. Kelly ft. Usher - Same Girl [9/8]
Chris Brown - Wall To Wall [3/4.25]
Common - The People [7/6.75]
Gym Class Heroes ft. Patrick Stump - Clothes Off! [5/3.75]
Carrie Underwood - I'll Stand By You [3/4.57]
Sean Kingston - Beautiful [4/6.75]

I also wrote a very negative blurb for Green Day's John Lennon cover that wasn't used. Just as well.


In My Stereo

Thursday, May 17, 2007
Thin Lizzy - Jailbreak
Little Feat - Waiting For Columbus
Sloan - Between The Bridges
Joe Lally - There To Here
Young Dro - Best Thang Smokin'
Birdman & Lil Wayne - Like Father, Like Son
DNA - Jive R&B: Industry Xposure R&B Collection
Dan Deacon - Spiderman Of The Rings
DJ Blaqstarr - Supastarr EP
Gary B & The Notions - Get Those Crazy Notions! EP

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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Briefly: a reminder to go check out, where in the past month I've written about Baltimore club music (the latest Club Beat column featuring an interview with Scottie B.), Baltimore rap music (a post about videos on YouTube by Diablo, Mullyman, PenDragon, Comp, Labtekwon, B. Rich, and Bossman), and Baltimore rock music (live reviews of Private Eleanor, Vinny Vegas/Deleted Scenes/Savory James, and
Karmella's Game/Avec/Endless Mike and the Beagle Club/Velociraptor). Trying to keep it locally focused but with a lot of variety.

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TV Diary

Saturday, May 12, 2007
1. Planet Earth
This show is the shit. I grew up watching all those National Geographic/Wild America-type nature shows on PBS with all the intense footage of animals in their natural habitat and exotic plantlife and all that. And I'm amazed it took this long for someone to update that format with more and more hi-tech cameras and more stylized cinematography, it seems like a no-brainer because stuff like this never ceases to be worth watching. But then, since this show took 5 years to shoot, I guess they did get the idea a while back but just took their time to do it right. Christ, this show has a 9.8/10 user rating on IMDb, don't take my word for it, watch it.

2. American Idol
I have to say, given that it's kind of undeniable that this season has been overall kind of weak, especially compared to last season, I'm pretty happy with the way the last few weeks have gone down, aside from the whole "Idol Gives Back" debacle and the ripoff of a 2 hour results show with no result. They got rid of Sanjaya before the top 6 thankfully, and he's already starting to feel like a distant memory (at least, until he gets a pilot on FOX), and then dumped Chris "nasally is a form of singing" Richardson and Phil, who'd turned in some good performances but just was not built to last. And this week, I was ready to see LaKisha go with her bad song choices and all. She really fell off from the early episodes, I just started tuning out her performances. If you'd asked me a month or two ago who I thought the top 3 should be, I probably would've said Jordin, Blake and Melinda (I might've thrown in Sligh or Glocksen in there out of some favoritism, but I ultimately knew they weren't built to last). Melinda is a little boring but still a truly great singer, and right now I'm rooting for Jordin to take it and become a serious pop star. Everyone I know hates hates hates Blake, which I can understand. But hey, it's American Idol, of course the token hip/contemporary guy is gonna be into 311 and beatboxing! Everything on AI is seen through a lens of middle American corniness, that's the way it is and I probably wouldn't have it any other way. Plus I could see him making some decent Maroon 5-type pop records.

3. The Riches
I feel like this show is on very thin ice, where the premise is constantly in danger of becoming a little too implausible or contrived to get into. And every time I watch the preview at the end for the next week's episode, it looks like that's gonna be the one where it just gets too ridiculous, and then the actual episode pulls it off and I'm still invested in it. But then, they just got renewed for a 2nd season, so it'll be interesting to see how they keep it all going. Right now, I think Minnie Driver as Dahlia is emerging as the really compelling character in the whole thing. Where Eddie Izzard is just kind of hanging in there as a dramatic actor and his character is not too different from the smartass making it up as he goes along that he plays in his standup act, Dahlia keeps getting fleshed out and humanized more every week. At first it seemed like she could be a caricature of a woman who can't get her shit together, who went to prison and ended up with a drug habit. But the show keeps delving into her struggle to keep straight, to not hate the man she went to prison for because he's still her husband, to keep up the facade of the life they're now faking. I don't know if Driver's ever had a film role this complex before.

In My Stereo

Wednesday, May 09, 2007
Redman - Red Gone Wild: Thee Album
John Legend - Once Again
The Evens - Get Evens
Trans Am - Sex Change
Styles P. - Time Is Money
Trick Daddy - Back By Thug Demand
Portastatic - Be Still Please
Velociraptor - 2007 EP
U.A. Mobb - Staxx On Deck
Tate The Asenal featuring Mickey Knoxx - The Beginning Of The End Mix Tape Vol. 1

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Sunday, May 06, 2007
The latest stuff I've blurbed for the Stylus Jukebox:

Jim Jones ft. Juelz Santana - Emotionless [5/5.8]
Kelly Clarkson - Never Again [7/6.83]
Eve - Tambourine [4/5.5]
T.I. - Big Shit Poppin' [6/6.2]
Devin The Dude ft. Andre 3000 and Snoop Dogg - What A Job [6/7.5]
Marilyn Manson - Heart-Shaped Glasses [7/6.2]
The White Stripes - Icky Thump [3/5.8]
Enrique Iglesias - Do You Know (Ping Pong Song) [4/4.25]
Yung Joc ft. Gorilla Zoe - Coffee Shop [3/6.5]
Robin Thicke - Can U Believe [6/5.5]

My scores haven't been too far off the consensus lately, although I'm happy to be the voice of dissent on the occasion that everyone is praising what sounds like unlistenable bullshit to me ("Coffee Shop," "Umbrella"). A commenter took me to task for dissing Andre ("Dear Stylus, If you are actually paying Al Shipley to contribute to your website based on his knowledge and understanding of lyrics, please read this sentence and reconsider," haha, well they aren't, but thanks for your concern!), but I stand by what I said. His verse on the "Walk It Out" remix is a muddled, half-realized mess, he sounds like fucking Murphy Lee on the new UGK song, and we need to stop giving this cat a gold star every time he raps just because we're grateful that he's not trying to sing or play guitar.


Viewing Diary

Thursday, May 03, 2007
1. Hot Fuzz
I've watched and re-watched Shaun Of The Dead on cable more times in the past couple years than any comedy except Anchorman and maybe 40 Year Old Virgin, so I had high hopes for this, and it really lived up to them. And I like that both of these movies managed to do all these cop movie cliche gags within the constraints of some pretty good storytelling and character development. As much as I like a lot of movies from the Mel Brooks/Zucker Bros. school of joke-a-minute genre parodies, that whole approach has really been done to death lately by the Scary Movie franchise and all the other similiar offshoots, so it's good to see something that functions more as a narrative while still being extremely referential and ridiculous. And when Hot Fuzz goes into ridiculously overblown Bad Boys II mode, it works because there's already been an hour and a half of restraint that makes the over the top violence funnier than if they'd just come out with guns blazing from the start. I'm still cracking up about lines like "crusty jugglers" and "a great big bushy beard!" It was a little bit uneasy to watch such a celebratory satire of shoot-em-up violence less than a week after the Virginia Tech shootings, though. Really bad timing.

2. "The Venture Bros."
This was my 3rd favorite TV show of 2006, but I didn't totally appreciate the scope of its brilliance until I got the DVD sets, first of Season 1 as a Christmas gift from J.G., and then when I bought the new Season 2 discs last week and we ended up running through every episode in one weekend. I'd say that it's torture that I'm going to have to wait nearly a year for Season 3 to start, but I still have the commentary tracks and DVD extras to go through, and the show is just so densely packed with gags and asides that I think they're gonna have a lot of replay value, which is why it's one of the only shows I've gone out of my way to buy the DVD set of instead of merely renting.

3. Sour Grapes
I watched this on TV a while back, mainly because I'm the only person in the world who would think "hey, awesome, a Steven Weber/Craig Bierko vehicle," and it turned out to be excruciatingly lame, albeit in a way where you could tell that it probably could've been good but just fell flat. I didn't even realize until late that it was Larry David's directorial debut, which isn't so surprising, really, since as much credit as he deserves for Seinfeld, I've really never gotten into Curb Your Enthusiasm and I'm not sure he's capable of doing anything really great without the right collaborators.

4. 28 Days Later...
Somehow I hadn't seen this even though J.G. owns it, so I decided to finally catch up and watch it before the sequel with Stringer Bell comes out. I liked the way the story was framed just after a giant epidemic wipes out most of the population, and the first half captured what that kind of situation would be like to live through really convincingly. But where the movie started off by tweaking the expectations one might have (that there'd be an optimistic ending, that the male and female leads would end up hooking up), the second half fell right into that crap, which I found a little disappointing. The alternate ending that appears in storyboard form on the DVD would've satisfied me more, I think, if they'd figured out a way to do it well. Also, the IMDb page for this is hilarious: "Plot Keywords: Vomiting / Teenage Boy / Dress / Zombie / Soft Drink" etc.