Monthly Report: May Albums

Sunday, May 31, 2009
Going on vacation this week, so no more new posts til I get back, or however long it takes me to have something to say:

1. Electrik Red - How To Be A Lady: Vol. 1
As good as The-Dream's new album is, I've still got reservations about him as a singer/performer/persona to the point that I kinda knew I'd like the record from his girl group more, but this is really far and away my album of the year so far, it's just fucking out of this world great. The kind of profane, perverse girl power of all these nasty sex songs has a pretty innate appeal to me, but what really puts it over the top is some of Tricky Stewart's lushest, strangest, most aggressive production to date. Every song seems to have so many distinct hooks, both lyrical and instrumental, all woven together into these anthemic songs.

2. Jarvis Cocker - Further Complications
I had no problem when he got married and mellowed out a bit on We Love Life and Jarvis, so the news that Jarvis Cocker was coming back when a mean grimy divorce record produced (ugh sorry recorded) by Steve Albini, I didn't really know what to think. I mean working with Albini can't even be considered a back-to-basics move for Cocker, since he never really worked in a sound like that to begin with. But I shouldn't have worried, because I've yet to hear a bad album from the guy (it helps that I've never heard any Pulp earlier than His 'N Hers), and this is no exception. The sound of the album isn't even as wild or raw as I expected, really it just brings Cocker's songs closer to the dry '70s sound that suits his songwriting really well anyway. "I Never Said I Was Deep" might go in a little too much for his old cheap cleverness, but for the most part this album hits as hard as some of my favorite Pulp songs, even if nothing quite kills me like "Big Julie" off the last record.

3. DJ Paul - Scale-A-Ton
It kinda feels like, based on Three 6 Mafia's last album, that the success and all the Oscars and the reality show kinda ruined them, or at least completely warped their self-image and musical ambitions, to the point that who knows if we'll get a good proper Three 6 again. But it seems like when the pressure isn't on to keep making hit singles, they can go off and do solo albums and Project Pat albums and make dope bleak uncommercial HCP music, which is reassuring. This album is pretty killer from front to back, and Paul's production palette feels kind of more varied and unpredictable here than the usual goth synths and occasional Willie Hutch sample.

4. Young Jeezy - Trappin' Ain't Dead
Despite the fact that Trap Or Die pretty much made his career, Jeezy's mixtape work since then has never been really essential or on the same level as his albums. But his first one since the maybe-classic The Recession seemed worth checking out anyway, and it's really surprisingly thorough, big album-worthy anthems and even some Toomp beats. I'm glad that an A-list rapper still at the top of his game dropped something this month, so that I wasn't tempted to try and listen to the new albums by the dried up husks once known as Eminem or Busta Rhymes or Cam'ron.

5. Gucci Mane - Writing On The Wall
Even though some of my best internet homies were way ahead of the curve on Gucci Mane's current surge of popularity, and I've liked a few of his songs in the past and did the Scratch article on "Freaky Gurl," I'm definitely one of those people that was kinda sleeping on the guy and is really just catching up and actively paying attention now that it feels sort of essential to do so. And so far I'm really liking his first new mixtape since getting out of jail as much as the underground stuff from last year, still retaining that kind of buoyant, cavalier vibe and weird colorful production that's kind of made him an unlikely star.

Monthly Report: May Singles

Saturday, May 30, 2009
1. Maxwell - "Pretty Wings"
I already raved about this on the Singles Jukebox the other day, so I won't repeat myself, but man this really bowled me over the first time I heard it. My favorite part is the abrupt mid-song stop, which at first made me sorry that it was over, and then when the song kept going I was kind overjoyed to have more of it to listen to.

2. Papa Roach - "Lifeline"
Another one I wrote about a bit elsewhere already, so I'll be lazy again and just link to that.

3. Beyonce f/ Kanye West - "Ego (Remix)"
Considering how cold I've been on both I Am... Sasha Fierce singles and Kanye's recent run of guest verses in general, I'm really surprised how much I like this. His tendency to go beyond the standard 16 bars and kind of ramble on "Knock You Down" was irritating, but here the way he does it at the beginning of the song, before the beat kicks in, is kind of cool and reminds me of Andre on "Int'l Players Anthem" (although the way he does the hook is irritating as fuck). He cannibalizes a bit of the old mixtape track "Dream Killers," which is funny since I thought he was finally done rehashing pre-College Dropout lines with "Homecoming," but it also helps me pretend the verse is from back when Kanye was routinely this funny and self-deprecating. And once the Beyonce part starts it's just a catchy-ass song with a great piano hook.

4. Z-Ro f/ Mya - "Tired"
As much as I dug the ABN album last year, I totally slept on the fact that Z-Ro put out a solo album a couple months later, and was really blown away by this song when MTV Jams started running the video the last few weeks. I know sad introspective Z-Ro songs are a dime a dozen but this one is really killing me, just the way a random commercial R&B chick shows up to harmonize with him on this really soulful little chorus, and the beat is similarly simple but effective, just a great vibe on the whole thing.

5. 8Ball - "America"
Memphis All-Stars is still one of my favorite albums of the year, and a big part of that is the 9-minute final track, titled "Love Spoken" on the album. It's one of those random rap album outros where some poetry guy rants and raves vaguely political stuff for a few minutes, but it's all over this gorgeous wah-wah guitar noodling and actually sounds kind of dope, and just when you think it's over, this pinging synth riff comes in and 8Ball shows up again, rapping this incredibly bleak song, which apparently is called "America," and now has a video. Like "Tired," it's too dark to really be a hit, but I'm glad to at least see it on TV.

Friday, May 29, 2009

It kind of crushed me a couple years ago when the Kirkwood brothers got the Meat Puppets back together, after a decade of Cris spiraling downward into drug addiction and prison, and Curt recording a series of widely ignored albums with other projects, and the album they ended up with, Rise To Your Knees, was dull as dishwater. It should've been a triumphant rekindling of their musical chemistry, or at least a respectably rusty return, especially considering how well onetime contemporaries like Dinosaur Jr. and Sonic Youth have transitioned into middle age. Instead, it was just as bad as Golden Lies, the album Curt did with a new band in 2000 but called the Meat Puppets.

So, in a way, their new album, Sewn Together is a big relief, just for being merely decent. On a level playing field, it's probably equal to older middle-tier Meat Puppets albums like Mirage or Forbidden Places, not classic material but not bad either. Their show here last year had enough of their loose, shambling dynamic of the old days that I had hope that there was still a little sloppy magic in there, and it does show up. The whimsy of songs like "The Monkey And The Snake" operates more as a barometer of the Kirkwoods' overall mood than an indicator of the album's strength, but their best albums always had some really light material that made the more serious stuff sound even better. If they keep this incarnation of the band going indefinitely into the future, I'd love to see if they get more and more back into the groove with each successive album.

TV Diary

Wednesday, May 27, 2009
a) "Southland"
I wouldn't say I'm jaded about cop shows so much as I'm just kind of disinterested. Maybe it was too many years of my dad taping "Law & Order," I don't know. But all the buzz about this show, and the strong "Homicide: Life On The Streets" vibes I got off it, were encouraging, although the first time I tried to watch an episode, I got bored fast. Then, the last 2 episodes of the (short) season, I got good and hooked, so I might have to catch up on the other ones now. Really I just like the show's use of tense silence, which is in a way more jarring on a network show with commercial breaks than it ever was on "The Wire."

b) "River Monsters"
The first episode I saw of this show on Animal Planet was the one about piranhas, which was pretty cool, just for the way the guy held a duck carcass under the water and showed how fast they took it apart. But I was like OK, they blew their load, they can't have anything remotely as cool for the other episodes, and I was wrong. Dude pulled the biggest catfish I've ever seen out of the water, shit was insane.

c) "Reaper"
I guess it's still not clear if this show is dead or not, but if last night's episode was the finale, they went out with a good dark episode. I really feel like the show's been on a good groove, though, I hope it comes back for a third season. But I'm also not getting my hopes up, given the ads for a new "Melrose Place" that the CW ran last night.

d) "Lost"
I can't wait for the last season to hit DVD, I really need to watch it again. Shit was dense. I'm still a little irked at how much was left unanswered in the finale, but I do appreciated that they folded the new Jacob stuff with enough ambiguity that all the obsessive fans can debate it for the next 9 months.

e) "Jeopardy!"
J.G. watches this show just about every night, and I'm a little less into it. So 7:30 tends to be the time where I go off and check my e-mail or something until the primetime shows start, but sometimes I watch it and play along, although she's much better at it than I am. I really think she could go on the show someday and do well. Trebek is getting a little loopy and silly in his old age, though, which has been making the show more entertaining.

Monday, May 25, 2009

For years now, mainstream hip hop has been getting by (sometimes just barely) on the questionable business model of flooding the market with free songs on mixtapes, in order to gain the loyalty of fans who will then supposedly pay for a 'real' album that is ostensibly supposed to be more polished or consistent or expensively produced than the mixtape. Of course, this does work to some extent, if the mixtapes create a Lil Wayne-sized buzz, and the album sells regardless of how the music is compared to the mixtape stuff. But sometimes this method creates an incredibly backward approach to releasing music, and there's perhaps nobody who's done it more backwards lately than Freeway, as exemplified by his new album, Philadelphia Freeway 2.

Freeway, whose first two albums were impressively consistent but who never released much in the way of mixtapes or underground music in the four years between them, got on the internet free music bandwagon pretty late, with last December's "month of madness" campaign, wherein he released a song a day for the whole month. The scheme didn't really grab as much attention as he probably expected it to, since there are all sorts of new jack blog rappers releasing a mixtape a week these days and you basically have to record 24/7 to impress anyone with your 'work ethic' in rap anymore. But the resulting Month Of Madness mixtape was actually really sick, 31 songs with all original production, and is easily one of my favorite rap releases of the year so far. And throwing out a ton of dope music for free is never a bad idea, but it really starts to feel like one if less than 6 months later, you ask people to pay for an album that's nowhere near as good as the free stuff.

You don't get a sense of just how wrongheaded Free was with these two projects until you look at the production credits -- Month Of Madness featured new beats from Don Cannon, Alchemist and Erick Sermon, while PF 2's beats are all handled by guys you've never heard of like Cozmo, Vince V and Hollis. Names don't always equate quality, but in this case the mixtape tracks murder the album beats, and in general PF 2 sounds low budget in a bad way, like even the vocals weren't mastered to really sink into the track like they should, and while Free's never had an ear for hooks, practically every song here has a weak chorus. The album's released on Fontana, a fake indie subsidiary of Universal, so it's not like he's been completely ousted from the major label world since Roc-A-Fella folded, but I guess he's gotta be stingy just to make a profit off this project. This summer, Free's releasing a collab album with Jake One, and as corny and out of date as the title The Stimulus Package will be by the time it finally drops, odds are having one good, established producer on the project will mean that Freeway will have two releases out this year that kill his 'official' third album.

Saturday, May 23, 2009
Recent songs I've scored and/or written about on The Singles Jukebox:

Demi Lovato - Don’t Forget [6/6.07]
Shontelle ft. Akon - Stuck With Each Other [4/4.08]
Blackout Crew - Dialled [7/5.08]
Pink - Please Don’t Leave Me [7/6.38]
Chrisette Michele - Epiphany [3/6.83]
Nina Sky - On Some Bullshit [6/6.91]
Mandy Moore - I Could Break Your Heart Any Day of the Week [2/4.33]
Shinedown - Second Chance [8/4.75]
Cassie ft. Diddy - Must Be Love [3/6.23]
Ne-Yo - Part Of The List [4/7.3]
Pitbull - I Know You Want Me (Calle Ocho) [3/5.42]
Katy Perry - Waking Up in Vegas [5/4.71]
Eminem - 3 a.m. [3/3.36]
Pleasure P - Boyfriend #2 [4/4.88]
Gorilla Zoe - Echo [2/5]
Ginuwine - Last Chance [5/5.11]
Kanye West ft. Kid Cudi - Welcome To Heartbreak [5/5.62]
Kanye West ft. Young Jeezy - Amazing [2/5.64]

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The stuff I've posted on the Baltimore City Paper's Noise blog in the last few weeks has included a Club Beat column with James Nasty, a look at Club Reality, and live reviews of the Station North Spring Music Festival, Mongoloidian Glow/Pariah Piranha/Embarrassing Fruits @ the Baltimore Taper's Talking Head show, and the Gaslight Anthem/Pela @ the Recher Theatre.

Movie Diary

Tuesday, May 19, 2009
a) Earth
J.G. and I were big fans of the "Planet Earth" series, so we got good and geeked out to go see the movie version when it came out on Earth Day, even if it's probably got a bit of redundant footage, and the James Earl Jones narration doesn't add that much value (guy is a pro, no doubt, but I think I would've preferred the Patrick Stewart voiceover of the U.K. release). Still, I've been watching nature shows my whole life and this is epic grade A shit. The birds of paradise plumage and dancing montage was totally insane.

b) Over Her Dead Body
There was a weird period a couple years back where everyone loved Paul Rudd for all the hilarious supporting roles he did in movies, and was puzzled why he only seemed to get lead roles in lame rom coms, at least up until Role Models finally let him headline something decent. This is one of those movies, and it's actually kind of clever and funny at times, almost living up to the kind of hoary fantasy comedy of yesteryear vibe of the premise, but ultimately is still kind of crap, because Rudd is again left to be the straight man while Eva Longoria and some weird-looking lady named Lake Bell are left to delivery most of the comedic dialogue.

c) The Jane Austen Book Club
J.G. was watching this on cable one day, and since I'm not one to turn my nose up at a decent rom com, I ended up getting into it, too. I took a Jane Austen course in college, and was one of the only guys in the class, so I kind of identified with the male lead, even, and knew the books well enough to catch most of the references. The way they threaded the story with parallels to Austen books in both overt and kind of subtle unstated ways was nice, kinda let you enjoy it on both levels. Also, Maggie Grace: never did anything for me as a blonde, but blazing hot as a brunette.

d) I Know Who Killed Me
I probably would've been more bowled over by just how bizarre this movie is if I hadn't read the epic Four Four post about it, but I probably wouldn't have thought to even try watching it if I hadn't read that first. But anyway everything about this, from the color scheme to the dialogue to the music to the plot, is just bananas in a way that I almost can't believe it wasn't intended as camp. It's nice that Lohan made something this interesting on her way down, instead of just more crap like Georgia Rule and "Ugly Betty" guest spots.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

A few years ago I thought Rhymefest was, and possibly still is, the best of the growing horde of post-Kanye friends, trend-chasers and people who generally only have any kind of a career in rap because of him, and it bummed me out that his career prospects were sold short by a so-so debut album full of Mark Ronson's bad ideas (Wale, pay attention, this is your future). And really, this whole thing last year just confirmed for me that he's a rare example of someone who really understands the politics and issues he raps about, and that Lupe is just kind of a dullard with a big vocabulary who happened to make a better album and have a more successful career. So I've been glad that as Rhymefest waits for years and years for a possible second chance at major label glory, he's kept up with some good mixtape releases, like the recent The Manual with Scram Jones.

The objective of The Manual is ostensibly paying homage to and getting on the mic with some legends of yesteryear, but he also spends a lot of the tape just further proving that he's one of the funniest rappers out these days and entertainingly pointing out how wack Charles Hamilton is. Scram Jones throws in some nice original beats, but mostly just strings together classic beats, and the 3-part Native Tongues medley is especially dope. And at the end, Rhymefest gets a little serious and touches on some issues with "RNQ," possibly my favorite Primo track in yeeears. I won't be holding my breath for El Che to see the light of day, and if it ever does it'll probably be because he has to embarrass a couple more inferior rappers to drum up publicity, but in the meantime I'm fine with him making good music under the radar.

2004 Reconsidered

Friday, May 15, 2009
1. Spymob - Sitting Around Keeping Score
2. Say Anything - ...Is A Real Boy
3. Kanye West - The College Dropout
4. Ted Leo and the Pharmacists - Shake The Sheets
5. Trick Daddy - Thug Matrimony: Married To The Streets
6. Sonic Youth - Sonic Nurse
7. My Chemical Romance - Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge
8. Pitbull - M.I.A.M.I.
9. Teedra Moses - Complex Simplicity
10. Twista - Kamikaze
11. Bossman - Law & Order
12. Cam'ron - Purple Haze
13. The Mark Lanegan Band - Bubblegum
14. Beauty Pill - The Unsustainable Lifestyle
15. Tin Hat Trio - Book Of Silk
16. Nas - Street's Disciple
17. Blood Brothers - Crimes
18. Jadakiss - Kiss Of Death
19. Paula Campbell - Who Got Next?
20. T.I. - Urban Legend
21. The Alchemist - 1st Infantry
22. Travis Morrison - Travistan
23. Ken Stringfellow - Soft Commands
24. The Killers - Hot Fuss
25. The Nels Cline Singers - The Giant Pin

I've been feeling kind of nostalgic for 2004 (or at least as nostalgic as one can feel for such a recent period) this week with the 5th anniversary of Gov't Names. That was also the year I started this blog, and kinda got heavier into keeping up with new releases and writing about them. But really some of those top albums are among my favorite of the decade and really a lot of that list would be pretty far up there, it was a good year. Kinda one of the last strong years for mainstream rap albums before the market dropped out for those, too.

1. Kelly Clarkson - "Since U Been Gone"
2. Anthony Hamilton - "Charlene"
3. T.I. - "Rubber Band Man"
4. Alicia Keys - "If I Ain't Got You"
5. Terror Squad - "Lean Back"
6. Britney Spears - "Toxic"
7. Wacko, Skip and Juvenile - "Nolia Clap"
8. My Chemical Romance - "I'm Not Okay (I Promise)"
9. Lil Wayne f/ Mannie Fresh - "Go DJ"
10. Yellowcard - "Ocean Avenue"
11. Lil Scrappy - "No Problem"
12. Jet - "Cold Hard Bitch"
13. J-Kwon - "Hood Hop"
14. Twista - "Overnight Celebrity"
15. Lloyd Banks f/ 50 Cent - "On Fire"
16. Jay-Z - "99 Problems"
17. Hillary Duff - "Come Clean"
18. Usher - "Confessions Part II"
19. Fabolous - "Breathe"
20. Kelly Clarkson - "Breakaway"
21. 8Ball & MJG - "You Don't Want Drama"
22. T.I. "Bring Em Out"
23. John Mayer - "Clarity"
24. D12 - "My Band"
25. John Mayer - "Daughters"
26. Yeah Yeah Yeahs - "Maps"
27. Big & Rich - "Save A Horse (Ride A Cowboy"
28. Lostprophets - "Last Train Home"
29. Young Gunz f/ Rell - "No Better Love"
30. Juvenile f/ Soulja Slim - "Slow Motion"
31. Jagged Edge - "What's It Like"
32. Blink 182 - "Always"
33. Ciara f/ Missy Elliott - "1, 2 Step"
34. Maroon 5 - "She Will Be Loved"
35. Keyshia Cole - "I Changed My Mind"
36. Memphis Bleek f/ T.I. and Trick Daddy - "Round Here"
37. Ying Yang Twins f/ Lil Jon - "Salt Shaker"
38. Sara Evans - "Suds In The Bucket"
39. Norah Jones - "Sunrise"
40. Ja Rule f/ Fat Joe and Jadakiss - "New York"
41. Blink 182 - "Down"
42. Ghostface Killah f/ Jadakiss - "Run"
43. Alicia Keys - "Karma"
44. Black Eyed Peas - "Hey Mama"
45. Mario - "Let Me Love You"
46. Ashanti - "Only You"
47. Ashlee Simpson - "La La"
48. Jadakiss f/ Anthony Hamilton - "Why"
49. Mannie Fresh - "Real Big"
50. Trillville f/ Lil Jon and Lil Scrappy - "Neva Eva"

This was a pretty good year for singles/hits, too, but I dunno, not as strong for me as the years directly before and after it. It was an interesting transitional time, Lil Jon and Kanye both kinda taking over and becoming fully ubiquitous but neither of them really putting in their best work, in my opinion. A lot of songs on here I was totally rapturously in love with at the time that I can't really muster the same enthusiasm for anymore, which isn't necessarily true of other stuff that's just a little older or newer.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

This week in the City Paper I have a feature about Lynee Michelle, the Baltimore-based R&B singer/songwriter who released her album Love, Lynee Michelle this year.

(photo by Rarah)

The 2009 Remix Report Card, Vol. 5

Monday, May 11, 2009
"Boom Boom Pow (Remix)" by The Black Eyed Peas featuring Gucci Mane and 50 Cent
One of my favorite kinds of all-star remixes is the kind where the lineup makes a certain sense at the moment it was made, but would be a complete wtf clusterfuck at any other point in time. And this is probably the best example since that "Lean Back" remix with Eminem and Ma$e and Lil Jon. Up unitl 6 months ago, and probably more than 6 months from now, the assembly of talent (and "talent") on the "Boom Boom Pow" remix would be bizarre even as a DJ blend. But in April 2009, BEP have weirdly come up with their biggest urban radio hit ever, at the same time that Gucci is rap's ascendant next big thing. And 50, once hip hop's most isolated superstar, the guy who'd appear on 80 Tony Yayo songs before recording a single bar for anyone not on Aftermath, has in the death throes of his career has started reaching outside of his comfort zone in all sorts of weird ways: guesting on a reggaeton song, jumping on (and then off) a Fall Out Boy tour, and now a goddamn BEP song. It's all so strange on a conceptual level that it's almost hard to listen to the track itself, although it's actually kinda decent, at least until the obnoxious tempo change.
Best Verse: Gucci Mane
Overall Grade: B

"Hottest In Da Hood (Remix)" Part 1 by Red Cafe featuring Diddy, Jadakiss, Rick Ross, Fabolous and OJ Da Juiceman
I'm on record as kind of hating these maximalist 12-guest multi-part remixes, really even just one super-long remix is better than dropping that many posse versions of the same damn song. I mean mostly I just find it annoying to try to keep track of them all, but also it's really unnecessarily for a barely-hit song like this, and none of these are as good as Red Cafe's last big remix of "Paper Touchin'," but the first one's the best so I'm gonna cover that for now, and maybe get the other 2 (or 3?) later. Fab kills the first remix ("make it go down, no Drano") and OJ as usual is hilariously out of his depth even with the lowest expectations.
Best Verse: Fabolous
Overall Grade: C

"Hustler's Anthem (Remix)" by Busta Rhymes featuring Ryan Leslie, OJ Da Juiceman, Gucci Mane and T-Pain
I really hated on this song in its original incarnation, but this really got me bumpin' it, so I'd say that's a sucessful remix. R-Les comes first and really brings a whole new vibe to the beat, sounds like something that would've been a highlight of his album. It's funny how Gucci and OJ have risen so quickly that they made their first appearance in this column in March and are now dominating the May installment. They both sound pretty good on this beat (yes, even OJ!), but really it's just nice to have someone other than Wayne on every song. The T-Pain hook is still weak as fuck, though.
Best Verse: Ryan Leslie
Overall Grade: A-

"Mafia Music (Remix)" by Rick Ross featuring The Game, Ja Rule and Fat Joe
"Mafia Music" is still one of my favorite tracks of the year, even though the "wow a decent Ross song!" novelty wore off and I'm not even gonna listen to Deeper Than Rap, and it's nice to hear some different MCs on that epic crawling beat. Game already did the corralling all of 50's enemies in his corner remix thing, though, and noone says anything interesting, so really the most entertaining part is AutoTuned Ja Rule, which isn't as bad as you might expect.
Best Verse: Ja Rule
Overall Grade: C+

Saturday, May 09, 2009

In my recent post about 2005 I referred to Brooke Valentine's Chain Letter as one of my favorite albums of that year, without realizing that the long-delayed follow-up Physical Education had just been released. Actually, not really, because the Physical Education Mixtape Album is a pathetic little 9-song indie release, which is apparently being looked at as a 'teaser' for the album that she still seems to think will still come out someday, even though the album's first single was released in 2006. It's kind of like she came out of the same 4-year R&B wormhole as the Rich Harrison girl group I was writing about the other day.

On Chain Letter, Valentine exuded a kind of weirdo personality, sense of humor, and wide swath of influences that feels much more in step with what's going on in R&B now, or at least a lot more tolerated on the fringes of the mainstream. But because her breakthrough single was with Lil Jon, she kind of got written off immediately as a Ciara knockoff, which was a shame. Now, she's doing more generically sexy stuff, in keeping with the whole Physical Education theme, but she can pull it off partly because she is, after all, super smoking hot. And there's still a little bit of wackiness in that approach (look no further than the title of "Do Me Shorts") and some deadpan humor (in the highlight, "Gold Diggin'"). But anytime a record like this, clearly recorded with mass market chart pop action in mind, probably mostly a couple years ago, ends up surfacing as a dated little indie release, it's all just a little sad.

In My Stereo

Friday, May 08, 2009
Rhymefest & Scram Jones - The Manual
Homesick Orchestra - Scarlet Fever
The Gaslight Anthem - Sink Or Swim
Mötley Crüe - Dr. Feelgood
The B-52's - Cosmic Thing
The Stylistics - The Stylistics
Led Zeppelin - Led Zeppelin II
Pontiak - Maker
Lynee Michelle - A New Dawn
Bossman - A.T.M.: After These Messages

TV Diary

Wednesday, May 06, 2009
a) "Sit Down, Shut Up"
I shouldn't have even tried to watch this since I'm not much of an "Arrested Development" fan, but man, what a crappy show and a waste of a pretty good voice cast. The whole animated characters in front of photographed background aesthetic is still kinda novel, I think, but they just did it in the ugliest possible way. I guess it's nice that FOX has been the only broadcast network continually investing in prime time animation, but I wish they'd come up with something better than this and McFarlane's sloppy thirds.

b) "Parks and Recreation"
Kinda the same deal here in that I'm not into "The Office" enough that I'm not necessarily primed for something from the same people, but gave it a shot anyway. Amy Poehler can be really funny with the right material, but man, making her the main character in a show so dry that it chafes is really not a good look.

c) "The Phone"
It's funny to me that MTV will seemingly put any ridiculous game show/reality show on the air at this point, as long as they can find some young pretty people to take part. The latest one that's actually kind of entertaining is letting people play some kind of action movie intrigue fantasy game, where they're given clues to solve what they get to pretend is some kind of real life corporate conspiracy, and they even shoot it like some kind of low budget Enemy Of The State shit. Ultimately they can't really make it actually suspenseful, though, so it's usually kinda boring.

d) "Party Down"
I feel like I'm the only person in the world actually watching this show, since it's on the frigging Starz channel, but it's been really consistently good and I hope it at least picks up a following once it hits DVD. I wasn't that crazy at first about two of the characters becoming romantically involved and the show threatening to have some kind of story arc, but it's paid off in ways that allow for great comedic scenes, and has helped make it feel less like a series of ridiculous events. The sweet sixteen and porn awards after-party episodes were especially good.

e) "Reaper"
I guess it's not clear if this show's going to survive to see another season yet, but it's been really good this year. It's still kind of essentially clumsily plotted and often requires suspension of disbelief or for characters to suddenly act really dumb, but there have been enough decent twists and entertaining episodes that I don't mind as much. I used to dismiss Tyler Labine as a Jack Black wannabe with a fauxhawk, and he still is, but he's also pretty talented and keeps the show moving along. And I hope Jenny Wade basically never stops showing up in every episode.

f) "The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson"
I keep meaning to watch this more, especially now that his competition on NBC is someone I actively root against. As much as I like Ferguson and he's better at this than most people even know, it really is kind of a wacky over the top show for late night, it feels very much like it should be on the BBC or something. But it took seeing a recent show where Eddie Izzard was the guest to see that Ferguson has the same basic appeal as him, just a rambling guy with an accent who can make these really well planned riffs seem completely improvised and off the cuff so that when they come together and make sense it's a pleasant surprise.

g) "Lost"
I am finally finally finally all caught up with the latest episodes of this online, just in time to watch the last 2 episodes of the season on my actual TV in my living room, which I am kind of excited about in and of itself. This season has been such a weird whirlwind, some of the dramatic choices have been a little cheesy, but mostly I like where the plot and the revelations have been going. The Locke/Ben episode was especially interesting.

h) "Scrubs"
It's so weird what's happened to this show the last couple years, with them gearing up for a finale, then not getting to shoot it because of the writer's strike, then switching networks and maybe even continuing after this season without some cast members. Even some of the recent episodes haven't had some of the main actors, which results in weird storylines focusing on Elliott and Turk, although really if this show comes back Braff-less that could be an improvement, even if the show is still well past its peak.

Monday, May 04, 2009

I'm the kind of drummer geek that if I see a band where the drummer really stands out, I instantly seek out everything else they've done. So when I saw Impossible Hair a few weeks ago and thought drummer Sammy Ponzar was the best thing about the band, I saw that he had another band that had just released a record on Dischord and had to check that out. Andalusians is a songwriting vehicle Basla Andolsun, who plays bass in Beauty Pill, so that was encouraging too (and to play 6 degrees of Dischord separation, the band Impossible Hair was playing with that night was The Caribbean, who sometimes have a member in common with Smart Went Crazy, which kind of later became Beauty Pill).

I have a pretty good track record with just blindly going for whatever new Dischord band has a link to an older Dischord band I liked, but so far I'm not so hot on Andalusians. Their debut release, Do The Work, a three-song single on vinyl and a six-song EP in digital formats, isn't a lot to go on, but it's also not a lot to be optimistic about. Andolsun's voice is kind of unpleasantly whiny and nasal, and despite a good hook here or there the songs are just kind of generic bland rock. Still, there are some promising songs that indicate Andalusions might get better by the time they make a full-length, and of course the drums are pretty good, especially on "I Don't Know." But mostly I think I'll just go back to patient waiting for a new Beauty Pill album.

Saturday, May 02, 2009
One of my esteemed City Paper colleagues, Raymond Cummings, recently released a book of poetry titled Assembling The Lord, and I was flattered when he asked me if I'd like to write a blurb about the book. I read the poems, racked my brain for something eloquent and sincere and open-hearted, but instead I came up with a silly little quip, and to my surprise, he liked it and used it. My blurb and info about the book are here, my favorite poem in the book is "Courting Voids."