Monday, February 27, 2012

File Under: Miscellaneous

So far I've been keeping up with my one New Year's Resolution which was to be post more on my Random Ramblings blog. Granted, this means that I've been slacking a bit when it comes to my other blog, Haikus By Brian L. But in all honesty, you can't force inspiration when it comes to Haikus. For instance, I have a post-it note on my dresser reminding me to write a Haiku about my love/hate relationship with Radiohead, which, to be honest, lately, has been just hate. Point being, this note is about 3 months old. But again, I've been good at consistently writing entries and making mixtapes for this here blog.

My aim is to do at least one entry a week (which will include a mixtape, of sorts.) My worry, however, is that I'll run out of themes for said mixtapes. So I've come to the conclusion that there needs to be some recurring mixtape themes. Since we're coming to the end of February, next week's Random Ramblings & Mixtapes entry will be a Best Of February Mixtape culling together the songs I've played and overplayed (including Sleigh Bells, A Place To Bury Strangers, School Of Seven Bells, etc.)  Full disclosure: it will likely also include January songs since I only came up with this idea today and ideally, I'll be doing Monthly Best Of Mixtapes from here on out. Other recurring themes may or may not include: Anticipation 2012 (I've already done two volumes but being an obsessive music listener, I'm always looking forward to new music on the horizon), As Heard On TV (mainly because I've recently heard The Joy Formidable's "Austere" in a video game commercial), and Cover songs (because really, who doesn't enjoy cover songs.)

OK, now that I've got the rambling out of the way, it's time for the mixtape. This week, a couple of friends at work pretty much came out and told me that musically, I have the reputation of hating everything. Then they both altered that claim by stating that I usually hate things that aren't noise pop or gothy. This is only partially true. Yes, I do show a lot of favoritism towards noisy and/or darker music but I swear I like bands that don't fall into either category. So the following mixtape is for them.

File Under: Miscellaneous
Check out this mixtape on Spotify: File Under: Miscellaneous [Random Ramblings & Mixtapes]
This mix is made up of artists that don't fall under goth, industrial, shoegaze, post-punk, noise-pop, or electropop. 

1. Jónsi, "Gathering Stories": Not everything I listen to is noisy. As a matter of fact, there's that rare occasion where something I like is downright pretty. Oddly, I'm not a Sigur Ros fan, but I love Jónsi's solo output.

2. Alcoholic Faith Mission, "My Eyes To See": Good thing I actually gave this band a fair chance because based on their band name alone, it could have gone either way. Had someone told me that they were a Christian Nü-Metal band I would've believed it. Luckily, they're not. Instead, they're a Danish indie rock band that some have compared to Arcade Fire - a comparison I find a bit too lofty for any band since, honestly, I haven't heard anyone that sounds like Arcade Fire. I'd say Alcoholic Faith Mission reminds me more of The Kissaway Trail and a bit of Polyphonic Spree.

3. The Magnetic Fields, "Andrew In Drag": The Magnetic Fields have tried their hand at just about everything be it noise-pop (2008's Distortion), synthpop (1992's The House Of Tomorrow) and even folk (2010's Realism)  Their latest offering, Love At The Bottom Of The Sea promises a return to synths that they had abandoned over their last few albums. But whatever their musical arrangements are, I'll always love Stephin Merrit's songwriting. And on this song, he's playful, whimsical, and well, funny ("I'm like a little wiener dog for Andrew in drag.")

4. Big Deal, "Chair": A boy/girl duo from the UK. Both play guitar - one acoustic, one plugged in. Both sing. It's a bit folky but with a touch of distortion giving their songs a layer of scuzz. It took a little while but their album, Lights Out definitely grew on me. Also, this video of the duo covering The Jesus And Mary Chain's "Sometimes Always" won me over even though they mess up the lyrics a little.

5. Brendan Benson, "Bad For Me": Even before he became a Raconteur, I liked Brendan Benson's music. This is a new one available as a free download from our friends at RCRD LBL. Download it here. "Bad For Me" is as heartbreaking as a ballad can get without turning into Coldplay (or Gotye) wussiness. Yeah, I said it!
[Alternate Spotify song selection: "Garbage Day"]

6. Jack White, "Love Interruption": Excuse my language, but Jack White is just the coolest motherfucker. He can pretty much do no wrong. See: The White Stripes, The Raconteurs, that album he produced for Loretta Lynn, The Dead Weather. He's so good that even a collaboration with the Insane Clown Posse is forgivable. Anyway, his first solo single, wouldn't have been out of place on Get Behind Me Satan. Oh and it's really good, if that needs to be said.

7. Band Of Skulls, "Bruises": I love this band. Just dirty rock n' roll with big drums, big guitars, and big choruses. A little White Stripes, a little Zeppelin, and a whole lotta awesome. If I was to put it in math terms: Band Of Skulls > The Black Keys.

8. Delta Spirit, "Tear It Up": Yeah, this band definitely has a folky vibe about them, but their latest, self-titled album is straightforward indie rock done right.
[Alternate Spotify song selection: "California"]

9. Tribes, "We Were Children": I want to call this band Britpop, but there's a bit of glam thrown in there. Also the singer reminds me of Alex Ebert of Edward Sharpe And The Magnetic Zeroes but minus the patchouli/hippie stench.

10. Gorillaz featuring Andre 3000 and James Murphy, "DoYaThing": Is it possible for anyone to not like Gorillaz? Yes, I did have something against Damon Albarn back in his Blur days but that was solely because he was dating Justine Frischmann of Elastica and well...I loved her, too. But for real, this song is as great as anyone would expect based solely on who is involved. Needless to say, Andre 3000 steals the show.
[Alternate Spotify song selection: "Doncamatic (feat. Daley)"]

11. M.I.A., "Bad Girls": Admittedly, I'm not the biggest hip hop fan but I am partial to rapping when it comes from someone with a British accent (see: Dizzee Rascal, The Streets.) I'm not sure where that lands M.I.A. but her first two albums were pretty unfuckwithable. This new song makes up for how underwhelming her last one was.

12. Mayer Hawthorne, "Hooked": Mayer Hawthorne makes music that is impossible not to like. As snarky as I can be, even I have to give in and like him. He makes me think that I got soul...then I realize I'm kind of gothy.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Day Crushes

I openly admit, I'm not a big fan of Valentine's Day. As a matter of fact, I used to spend this dreaded Hallmark holiday blasting nothing but Type O Negative, particularly, their 12-minute opus "Unsuccessfully Coping With The Natural Beauty Of Infidelity" or how it's more commonly known thanks to its sing-along chorus, "I Know You're Fucking Someone Else." Thankfully, it's been a long time since I did that; I've matured ever-so-slightly and in Type O's place, I would instead listen to nothing but Joy Division on this day. But even that tradition was thrown aside today, albeit not by choice. Sure, I would've been content spending the entire day listening Ian Curtis' voice but today was also moving day at work. What I did listen to today, after setting up my computer, was a seemingly continuous stream of Reign Of Terror, the new album from Sleigh Bells which, thanks to The New York Times, you can listen to here.

Needless to say, Reign Of Terror is on the fast-track of becoming one of my new obsessions. And why not- it plays up to my love of digital hardcore, industrial, and noise-pop with its shredding hair metal guitars, machine gun beats, and the airy vocals of Alexis Krauss. It shouldn't come as a big surprise that I have a bit of a crush on Ms. Krauss. As the video for "Comeback Kid" proves, it doesn't even make a difference if she's a brunette or a blonde because either way, I get all weak in the knees when I see her (Wait, did I just quote a song by SWV?! Also, did SWV stand for "Sisters With Voices"?)

Anyway, all this talk about crushes got me thinking that this might be the most appropriate time to pay tribute to some of my favorite swoon-worthy musicians over the years...with a mixtape, of course.

Valentine's Day Crushes
Check this mixtape out on Spotify: Valentine's Day Crushes [Random Ramblings & Mixtapes]

1. St. Vincent, "Cruel": It might have to do with the fact that Annie Clark is an awesome guitarist, but really, it might have more to do with the fact that she's just really dreamy. And based on interviews I've seen with her, she seems like she's a bit awkward which just makes her even more appealing.

2. Lykke Li, "Get Some": The first time I saw Lykke Li live she wore a hoodie about two sizes too big. But when I saw her in support of her awesome album, Wounded Rhymes, she was a completely different person. Quite frankly, she was the hotness. Seriously, I needed a cold shower after the show. "Get Some" now acts as her calling card, as she confidently sings, "I'm your prostitute. You gon' get some" - and the way she sneers it, it could also be a threat.

3. Liz Phair, "Supernova": They say you never forget your first and for me, my first indie crush was Liz Phair. Exile In Guyville was probably the 2nd indie CD I ever bought (the first would be House of GvsB from the criminally underrated Girls Against Boys.) And as unfortunate as it is that her music has really turned to shit, I'll always remember the good times.

4. Elastica, "Connection": Justine Frischmann is the reason that I hated Damon Albarn for so long. Eventually, I got over that. But just look at her...can you really blame me?

5. Lush, "Ladykillers": Miki Berenyi. That is all.

6. Dum Dum Girls, "There Is A Light That Never Goes Out": This band proves to me why girls like bad boys. Dum Dum Girls are like the bad girls in biker movies- dressed in all black, skipping class to hang out in the bathroom smoking cigarettes. Dee Dee is easily my favorite, not only because she's the singer (usually, I go for bass players. See: Melissa Auf Der Maur and Kim Gordon) but also because she's a bit gothy.

For serious, though, this interview makes me love Dee Dee a bit more. Plus their name is influenced by the Vaselines and Iggy Pop.

7. Sleigh Bells, "Comeback Kid": (See above)

8. Curve, "Fait Accompli": Apparently, not only do I have a thing for British women, but also ones that have a bit of a mean streak and are a bit gothy. Toni Halliday fits that description to a tee. She seems like the type that might get a bit rough. Is it odd that I find it crazy sexy when she sings "I've come to crush your bones; I've come to make you feel good"?

 [Note: In yet another instance of Spotify failing me, "Fait Accompli" wasn't available to include. So here is the video. Taking this song's place in the Spotify playlist is another Curve favorite of mine, "Hell Above Water."]

9. Kylie Minogue, "Love At First Sight": Last but most certainly not least, is Kylie. I will admit 2 things about my neverending crush on her. First, "Love At First Sight" might be one of my favorite pop songs ever. Second, I have a Kylie calendar hanging in my bedroom. It's a 2004 calendar.

For some reason, I had trouble posting this to be included after Lykke Li. As if I needed more reasons to love her, here she is with her band in a pre-show ritual of basically just jumping around hair-a-flailing.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Commercial Music

As un-American as it might seem, I have to come clean and admit that I have little to no interest in football. One reason is because my radio show, The Industrial Factory (on WZBC) is on Sunday nights. When it comes down to it, I'd rather be DJ'ing than watching football. But last week I gave in and watched some of the Super Bowl. I had was, after all, the New England Patriots vs. the New York Giants and I have a little bit of interest in both teams. On the one hand, I grew up in Brooklyn and believe it or not, I was a Giants fan. Back in the days of Phil Simms, Phil McConkey, Mark Bavaro, and Joe Morris. How's that for a display of unexpected sports knowledge?! And I didn't even namedrop LT. On the other hand, seeing as I currently live in Boston, and again, being from Brooklyn, I enjoy seeing Boston sports teams lose (the Bruins are exempt from this rule.) Also, Tom Brady is a pretty boy and as I might have mentioned in this post, I'm very anti-pretty boy.

I only had time to watch the first quarter of the game and the last 8 minutes. That gave me a small window of opportunity to see if there were any cool commercials since Super Bowl Sunday is also synonymous with pretty much every company shilling their goods in the best way possible. Then this happened:

I swear, I thought I had gone into cruise control (so to speak) and just put on my Ocean Rain record without thinking. But no, it was real...the sound of Ian McCulloch supplying the soundtrack to an Audi commercial. In all honesty, I could've been convinced it was a commercial for a blood bank. Either way, I had a couple of thoughts instantly come to mind. First, it is kind of cool to hear Echo & The Bunnymen in an ad; hopefully people will be awakened and want to search out "The Killing Moon" - it is, after all, an amazing song. Second, seeing as there were vampires involved, this does mean that the song is goth, right?

And like a good music nerd, I almost always take notice when a cool song, be it something classic or something new, makes it into a commercial. "High School Brian" would have cried "SELLOUT" at the thought of one of his favorite songs trying to sell Budweiser or HP Printers. But now that I'm a bit older and a little wiser, it's easier to accept it. These artists need to make money and getting their music out there one way or another is a good thing...even if it is for a Target commercial. Naturally, I've put together a mixtape of some of my favorite "commercial songs." By my tally, it looks like ads for beer and cars are geared towards people with good music taste. Go figure.

As Heard On TV
Check out this mixtape on Spotify: As Heard On TV [Random Ramblings & Mxtapes]
(note: inexplicably, I was unable to find The Jesus And Mary Chain song on Spotify. Weird)

1. Echo & The Bunnymen, "The Killing Moon": Fittingly, we begin the mixtape with the Audi jingle that was a catalyst for inspiring this post.

2. Spiritualized, "Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space": The title track to the album that soundtracked my Summer of 1997. My guess is that someone involved in putting together the ad campaign for the Volkswagen Bug had impeccable taste in music. Stereolab's "Parsec" was featured in another Bug commercial. See? Impeccable.

3. The Cure, "Pictures Of You": Hewlett Packard used this one to hawk colored printers. At least, I think that was what they used this for. Really, I didn't care since the world would stop whenever I would hear a song off off Disintegration.

4. New Order, "Age Of Consent": What is weirder? The fact that this song was recently used in a Target ad or the fact that it's not on Substance or the Retro box set?

5. The New Pornographers, "The Bleeding Heart Show": The University of Phoenix, which I'm pretty sure isn't really in Phoenix, used this one. Extra music nerd points for me for figuring out the song instantly from the outro's "hey la, hey la"s.

6. The Kinks, "Picture Book": HP really did use good songs for their colored printer campaign. I actually had to look this one up when I kept seeing the ad. That got my "Obsession Wheels" thing you know, I'm in a record store in the Village dropping $30 on a 180 gram vinyl reissue of We Are The Village Green Preservation Society. Turns out, it was money well spent.

7. Los Campesinos!, "You! Me! Dancing!": This one makes me laugh because Budweiser used this. I didn't even think the band was old enough to drink.

8. Holy Fuck, "Lovely Allen": I literally LOL'ed at this one, too. Chrysler featured this song in one of their ads and all I kept thinking was "Do they know the band is called Holy Fuck?"

9. Handsome Furs, "Memories Of The Future": Another Target commercial. I'm fairly certain that it's only the opening 5 seconds that are used. In my defense, this one was my favorite off their last album, Sound Kapital so it was easy for me to catch.

10. Sleigh Bells, "Riot Rhythm": Seriously, what is it with car commercials using kickass songs? This time it's Honda. Some honorable mentions have to go to Toyota for using The Buzzcocks' "What Do I Get" and to Cadillac for using Hum's absolutely awesome "Stars."

11. The Jesus And Mary Chain, "Sugar Ray": This was the first cool song I ever noticed in a commercial. I'm pretty sure it was a beer commercial - either Budweiser or Michelob. I remember sitting in my dorm room with the TV on in the background and being shocked that I was hearing the Mary Chain.

12. Santogold, "Creator": Another beer commercial, this time for Bud Light Lime...or something to that effect. Really, I hardly pay attention to what product is being hawked. With me, it's obviously about the music. And yes, this song came out prior to the slight name change to Santigold.

13. Skinny Puppy, "Pro-Test": Hearing Skinny Puppy outside of my radio show is capable of making my head explode. One time I went to see Tool at what is now the TD Garden and Puppy's "Death" played before the band came on and it made me giddy because when is Skinny Puppy ever going to play an arena that big. I had a similar reaction when I heard this song in a video game commercial for "LA Rush."