i'm with the brand

This is me after Veckatimest: or, Grizzly Bieber girl
April 1, 2010, 10:35 am
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omg chamber pop

Sometimes I have to take self-imposed hiatuses from listening to certain things, usually because they’re so unfathomably good that they make my heart hurt, and I recognize it’s unhealthy to only listen to one thing over and over for months at a time, especially when it puts you into some absurd aesthetic-emotional funk you struggle vainly to articulate. (See also: Radiohead.)

Most recently, this applied to Grizzly Bear’s 2009 release, Veckatimest, which I feel certain is going to go down in history as a modern classic. It’s exquisite, painstakingly crafted, and to be honest, near-impossible to do justice. (Seriously. “Ready, Able” is devastating. Ed Droste’s voice is so liltingly moving it’s unfair–like a thin, fine fabric whipped taut by some plane-parallel wind, buzzing subtly with some near-imperceptible tremor. I. Can’t. Deal.)

So what happens when I finally listen to Veckatimest last week, after a couple months of a no-Grizz diet? This, basically:

I, wish, (sob sob) Grizzly Bear, (aaaaah) was in (hic) my (hic) faaaaamilyyyyy.


It won’t be hard to keep pretending this Yeasayer remix is worth your time (yikes)
March 29, 2010, 3:02 pm
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madder red

In fact, no pretending involved. I promise this isn’t the All-Yeasayer-All-The-Time network, but this remix kills it. One of my favorite Odd Blood tracks, “Madder Red,” gets the Dr Rosen Rosen treatment: an actual, drastic re-imagining that casts the song in a totally new light–more ominous than apologetic. Not your run-of-the-mill “slap some arbitrary electrobeatz behind the track and be done with it” approach at all. Run, don’t walk–download it free at Stereogum.

Is sincerity making a comeback?
March 25, 2010, 1:04 pm
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Yeasayer at LA's Natural History Museum (photo via Stereogum)

Conan famously left the air with his admonition against cynicism. We talked about Levi’s doe-eyed campaign here too. And as I was obsessively listening to Yeasayer in anticipation of their Feb 5th show at the Natural History Museum (nuts–just nuts), I started to really process their lyrics holistically and noticed they’re overwhelmingly charged with gobsmacked enthusiasm–and an unpretentious sincerity belied by the the arty band’s sardonic hair and absurd comment-if-you-dare onesie jumpsuits.

Boredom and mockery have become such knee-jerk reactions that I was sure I was misunderstanding their message–of course this simplistic positivity was some critique of the naïve, these life-affirming platitudes an elaborate in-joke at the expense of the banal. It had to be. But I don’t think it was. In fact, I’m fairly certain it wasn’t.

It’s been so unfashionable lately to be anything but ironic, that for a BROOKLYN BAND (oh dear!) and hipster darling that should, by all accounts, be kings of smug irony–a band that’s got all the visual and sonic semiotics to be just another blasé subverter–to have sentiments so effervescent feels kiiiind of like the ultimate subversion. A decidedly un-precious attack from deep within the heart of hipsterdom.

A hippie thread (alternately sunny and dark) runs through their debut, All Hour Cymbals–and robot jungle apocalypse Odd Blood exults as much as it broods, too. It’s disarming, the bald-faced joyfulness of “Ambling Alp.” It’s endearing, the humanity of “2080.” It’s refreshing, the vulnerability of “I Remember.” Don’t believe me? A sampling of lyrics:

Red Cave
I’m so blessed to have spent that time
With my family
And the friends I love
In my short life I have met
So many people I deeply care for

Ambling Alp
Now, the world can be an unfair place at times
But your lows will have their complement of highs
And if anyone should cheat you, take advantage of, or beat you
Raise your head and wear your wounds with pride
You must stick up for yourself, son
Never mind what anybody else done

It’s a new year, I’m glad to be here
It’s a fresh spring, so let’s sing

Yeah, yeah, we can all grab at the chance to be handsome farmers
Yeah you can have twenty-one sons and be blood when they marry my daughters
And the pain that we left at the station will stay in a jar behind us
We can pickle the pain into blue ribbon winners at county contests

I Remember
I remember making love on a Sunday
Bright golden hearts in a fresh cut grass in May
I remember making out on an airplane
Still afraid of flying, but with you I’d die today
I remember the smell of your skin forever
Love us being stupid together
You’re stuck in my mind
All the time

It’s sweet, the lack of self-consciousness—but thankfully, never too saccharine. As Drowned In Sound puts it, Yeasayer finds “the emotional sweet spot that lurks betwixt being dispatched without irony, but not being unbearably sincere.”

So I’m not necessarily saying that one earnest it-band and the winking façade of an irony-steeped culture collapses—it’s just a musing for now, not a full-formed conviction—but it seems more and more, across all facets of culture, that we might be reconsidering the tongue that’s been planted so firmly in cheek.

Munch, Magritte, and Mondrian, oh my!: “70 million” by Hold Your Horses
March 6, 2010, 12:48 am
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70 million

They are in a Rembrandt, but are not The Rembrandts. Thank goodness.

Gericault, David, Velazquez, Klimt–the gang’s all here in Franco-American band Hold Your Horses’s new art-literate video for their sunny, catchy song, “70 million.” The band recreates 25 famous paintings in the video, and if you head over to Flavorwire, you can see side-by-side comparisons for most of the featured works.

The best way to get visibility? Give ’em something worth looking at.

Update: If you don’t mind reading it in Spanish, you can find a full list of the featured works, in the order they appear in the video, here.

OK Go fights for their right to party embed their own videos

ok go

OK Go are master choreographers, and they know how to play the low-budg homemade video game–they launched their career on it. On their first it was treadmills; on their latest, it’s an elaborate and well-timed Rube Goldberg setup. Here it goes again indeed:

With a knack for knowing what will go viral, they rode their Youtube promotional model to success and recognition–“To the band, ‘Here It Goes Again’ was a successful creative project. To the record company [EMI], it was a successful, completely free advertisement,” says lead singer and guitarist Damian Kulash, Jr. in a recent New York Times op-ed sending up the band’s label for misguidedly disabling the embed feature on the band’s Youtube videos in an attempt to eke out additional revenue. (Youtube only pays royalties for those videos viewed on the site, not those that are embedded.) The move fundamentally misunderstands the function and potential of Youtube in today’s cultural (and musical) landscape, and is merely one in a long string of embarrassing failures by a hopelessly outdated and pig-headed recording industry blundering indignantly and ever-insistently towards obsolescence.

The old music business model’s inability to accept, embrace, and leverage technology and the changing ways in which people are discovering , sharing, and interacting with music is a tired subject by now (and it’s not to say that some artists and labels are not learning to approach the changing business with enthusiasm, innovation, and aplomb), but Kulash lucidly argues his point : “In these tight times, it’s no surprise that EMI is trying to wring revenue out of everything we make, including our videos. But it needs to recognize the basic mechanics of the Internet. Curbing the viral spread of videos isn’t benefiting the company’s bottom line, or the music it’s there to support. The sooner record companies realize this, the better — though I fear it may already be too late.”

As of two days ago, EMI (which has a mortifying track record of desperate, just-doesn’t-get-it, artist-and-fan-alienating gaffes) has allowed OK Go’s videos to be embedded–but not because the label concedes the error of its ways. Rather, the band has secured a sponsorship from State Farm Insurance (huh??) which will allow them to embed with the sanction of EMI, which, while it’s something, does nothing to resolve the fundamental issue, and further encourages the label’s blind and ignorant drive to monetize–ironically, at all costs.

Read the rest of Kulash’s great op-ed, which goes on to question the shifting role of the label in music and the detrimentally-morphing artist-label relationship, at the New York Times.

And lastly, here’s the video that made them famous:

Nick Cave & Warren Ellis score The Road, just like in my dreams
January 5, 2010, 4:27 pm
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Nick Cave & Warren Ellis

I’m thrilled but not terribly surprised to hear that Nick Cave and Warren Ellis collaborated on the score to the film adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s haunting novel, The Road. I haven’t seen the movie or heard the soundtrack yet, but it seems totally apropos given the fact that when I first read The Road, it was the duo’s impeccable work from The Assassination of Jesse James that mentally scored McCarthy’s stark prose for me—particularly this song:

I guess someone in Hollywood was thinking along the same lines. Cave and Ellis are masters of evoking the barren and haunting—a rather lovely thing indeed.

Vampire Weekend, Beirut, MGMT, others appear in Vogue indie glamtacular
December 17, 2009, 5:07 pm
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Vampire Weekend & MGMT in Vogue

Music! Fashion! Music and fashion! Go together like peanut butter and more peanut butter. Stereogum reports that Vogue is styling your favorites (Vampire Weekend, Beirut, MGMT, Adam Green, Chester French, Golden Silvers, Mika, and The Horrors) for their January issue…sort of. The bands are basically a living mood board whose audio-visual aesthetic inspires and informs the designer duds worn by the model, Sasha Pivovarova—all this in an effort by Vogue to highlight the rebranding of many major European labels now under the creative auspices of cutting-edge and emerging designers dubbed “young lions.”

Stereogum brought us another cool bit of music-as-design-palette-and-vice-versa a while back in their coverage of the New York Times’s profile of some Brooklyn’s bumper crop of indie hometown heroes and their distinctive sartorial stylings (read: how to dress like Deerhunter for less more.)

NY Times Profile