December 9, 2011

The English Reveria

Metronomy-TheEnglishRiviera

Metronomy’s third LP is easily one of my favorite albums of the year, something like the British version of MGMT’s Congratulations—a catchy, contemporary psych-pop album—except without the baggage of “Kids” and “Electric Feel.” The falsetto harmonizing, punchy bass and squeaky synths remain intact, but The English Riviera is, at its core, a remarkably consistent collection of crisply produced pop tunes, a testament to frontman Joseph Mount’s songwriting prowess. (Suffice it to say that the Hockney-esque album art is appropriate.)

Metronomy-EverythingGoesMyWay

That said, the female backing vocals are the key ingredient to my favorite tracks, “Everything Goes My Way” and “Corinne.”

» Metronomy – Corinne (3:16) – 5.8MB mp3 @ 246kbps

Although the album was released in April, I didn’t get around to listening to it until around CMJ, when I RSVP’d to see them play a free show at the Fader Fort; now that I’ve had The English Riviera in heavy rotation for the past month or so, I deeply regret missing them this year. (I recall seeing them in concert—DIY light-up shirts and all—at the now-shuttered warehouse formerly known as Studio B, back in what constitutes “the day” for a Millenial transplant, probably circa 2007…)

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February 14, 2011

Newsflash / Metronomy Remix

radiohead-site

Radiohead (my favorite band by some modern metrics) have just announced their eighth full-length album, The King of Limbs, slated for digital release on Saturday, February 19th and physical (and possibly metaphysical, lest the $39-worth of packaging is actually printed on newsprint) release on Monday, May 9th.

Donwood?

I can only assume this is a portrait of Thom & Stanley Donwood

The name of the new album relates to an oak tree in Wiltshire’s Savernake Forest, thought to be around 1,000 years old. The forest lies around three miles away from Tottenham House, a listed country house where Radiohead recorded part of ‘In Rainbows’.

The tree is a pollarded oak, referring to an ancient technique for harvesting timber for fencing and firewood. The phrase also appears in the 23rd chapter of the Qu’ran.

NME.com / via mark

radiohead-thanks-you-for-waiting

News about “that nonconformist British band” aside, here’s a Metronomy remix of Diplo (from the excellent Ninjatune XX compilation).

» Diplo (Feat. Sandra Melody) – Newsflash (Metronomy Remix) (4:34) – 7.1MB mp3 @ 207kbps

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February 4, 2011

Beijing Sim City

Reprise: YACHT – Psychic City (Classixx Remix) (4:13) – 4.2MB mp3 @ 128kbps

Explore Beijing from the comfort of your living room with Baidu’s 3D maps:

I used to live in the future...

I used to live in the future...

I can only assume that Google is still reticulating splines for NYC…

The map ends a few short blocks from Rem Koolhaas' CCTV building...

The map ends a few short blocks from Rem Koolhaas' CCTV building...

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August 1, 2010

High Fidelity

daft-punk-helmet-guy-manuel-de-homem-christo-by-harrison-krix-volpin-props

This is a week old, but amazing nonetheless: Atlanta-based prop designer Harrison Krix spent 17 months crafting the helmet that Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo dons to become one half of Daft Punk.

Truly brilliant.

Core77 / HB

Homem-Christo also recorded as Le Knight Club in the late 90′s:
» Le Knight Club – Mirage (7:08) – 8.2MB mp3 @ 160kbps

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June 23, 2010

Tell ’Em

This one goes out to Landon Donovan & the Comeback Crew:

» Sleigh Bells – Tell ’Em (2:56) – 6.1MB m4a @ 256kbps

You know how we do.

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June 17, 2010

The Fabled Chinese Hipster – Part 2: Reprise

“I guess I am deeply embedded in the ‘myth-making’ process…” –Matthew Niederhauser

A long-delayed (if not long-awaited) follow-up to Part 1. I would also suggest (re)reading my first impressions of the Beijing indie rock scene, and I strongly advise you to listen to the following track while you read this post (and, hopefully, while you do other things in the future):

» Carsick Cars – 中南海 (6:45) – 11.22MB mp3 @ 232kbps

sound_kapital_4a-matthew-niederhauser-via-wired

All photos by the amazing Matthew Niederhauser, who offers an insider’s perspective on the Chinese rock underground, specifically D-22/Maybe Mars:

Wired.com: As an indie rock fan in the United States, I don’t feel like a similar scene could exist here anymore without the bands being marginalized as posers and hipsters. But in your photos there seems to be an authenticity in the subjects that can’t be faked. Is this just my perception as a Westerner looking in, or do you think there’s something about really tough circumstances in China leading to more authentic rock and attitude?

Niederhauser: The socioeconomic circumstances of China cannot be divorced from the music scene.

[These musicians] are repelled by and don’t wish to participate in a largely vacuous and inherently unsustainable consumer culture taking hold of China. While they might not brazenly attack the government, their embrace of such a fringe lifestyle along with the music they produce is a powerful statement in and of itself. This choice comes with a social stigma that is hard to imagine outside of China.

–Matthew Niederhauser, Scenes from the Beijing Rock Underground,
Wired, December 2009 (highly recommended)

sound_kapital_1b-matthew-niederhauser-via-wired

During my second month in Beijing, I continued to explore the indie rock scene, to the extent that this lengthy postscript to my initial thoughts on ‘Beijing Rock City‘ is a felicitous introduction to this second look at the Fabled Chinese Hipster.

With no idea how to go about pirating music, I went out of my way to catch hyped bands such as ReTROS and Pet Conspiracy at their concerts. Meanwhile, I came to enjoy the likes of Carsick Cars and B6—probably my two favorite Chinese acts, at this point—by purchasing their albums (in retrospect, I should have gone pre-teen rock-virgin style and bought every CD I could get my hands on).

carsick-cars-2-by-matthew-niederhauser

In fact, in many ways, it was like going back a decade in time, to those glorious teenage days when every five minutes on Napster yielded a new rock ‘n’ roll gem. In a particularly portentous coincidence, I happened to discover the likes of the Velvet Underground, early Red Hot Chili Peppers and Radiohead in Chinese bootleg form on the relatively lawless streets of Beijing in the early days of cheap CD-burners—as did many of my fellow countrymen (the rebellious teens of my generation, at least), including Zhang Shouwang of Carsick Cars:

The generation before us didn’t have as many chances to get to know the rock music of Western countries, but nowadays we listen to music from many other countries. I believe that when my bands write songs, we might be influenced some elements of Western culture. I think the next generation of bands will be much different than ours.

Carsick Cars is China’s answer to New York’s (/NJ) holy trinity of feedback-drenched songcraft: Velvet Underground, Sonic Youth and Yo La Tengo; in keeping with the fuzz aesthetic, a couple of their songs from the first album are deadringers for Jesus & Mary Chain. Say what you want about influences and imitation, it’s pure rock ‘n’ roll: guitar tones that are simultaneously warm and bright, backed by thick slabs of bass and unfussy drums—and Carsick Cars a damn good band for it.

zhang-shouwang-by-matthew-niederhauser

I’ve been hooked on their hit single (for lack of a better term) “中南海” since I first heard it last fall, after buying their albums directly from Maybe Mars’ headquarters near where I was staying. It’s a fairly simple song: the lyrics consist mostly of one phrase (“中南海”; literally “Middle South Sea” [Zhōng nánhǎi; sounds vaguely like "drunk not high"]) repeated over a catchy riff; the album version disintegrates into a pleasantly noisy breakdown—just to prove that they can—where the song would normally be truncated for radio, before cutting back for one last uplifting refrain.

And before you know, it’s over.

carsick-cars-1-by-matthew-niederhauser Read the rest of this entry »

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June 9, 2010

Music in Video Form

Frankly, I was disappointed with the squirmy PG-13 implied violence / homoerotica (not to mention the gimmicky bowlcuts) of “Alejandro”—especially because I thoroughly enjoyed “Telephone”—though Gaga is clearly (and perhaps commendably) going for broke on the Madonna ‘gay-man-in-a-woman’s-body’ schtick.

Perhaps I was unimpressed with Gaga’s latest S&Meh-tinged (as they say on Brooklyn Vegan) effort because I’d recently seen the entirety of the Cremaster cycle for the first time, over the past two weeks at the IFC Center. (Despite the datedness of the special effects, the scope of Matthew Barney’s vision can only be described as epic, and I have yet to fully digest the visual language of the five-part arc, much less form an opinion about it.)

Of course, the comparison is patently unfair to both artists, and, to Gaga’s credit, “Bad Romance” is easily one on my favorite music videos of all time. Now, let’s see if Klaus Biesenbach can get them together for some kind of blockbuster collaboration…

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via Pitchfork

It’s tempting to peg the video as a metaphor for the album—drifting along, lacking ambition yet not unpleasant—but I haven’t listened to LP4 quite enough to pass judgment. Also, interview with Mike Stroud (½ of Ratatat) on Nowness.

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I liked the video from the start, but it’s taken a few views to get into the song itself.

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More jams:

Japandroids – Younger Us (Pfork) (A little too pop-punky on first listen…)

Yeasayer – O.N.E. (Clancy & Build Remix) (’Sup)

Crystal Castles Suffocation (Memory Tapes Remix) (Pfork)

Kid Cudi [vs. LCD Soundsystem] – All Talk (ft. Chip Tha Ripper & Christian Bale)

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May 23, 2010

Tiny Vices

tinyvices_terence-koh.4

» The Stooges – Fun House (Take 3) (11:29) – 10.52MB mp3 @ 128kbps

tinyvices_tim_barber_iggy

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April 26, 2010

Staring at the Sun

» TV On The Radio – Staring at the Sun (Diplo Remix) (4:12) – 3.9MB mp3 @ 128kbps

sun-sdo-1

NASA’s recently launched Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, is returning early images that confirm an unprecedented new capability for scientists to better understand our sun’s dynamic processes. These solar activities affect everything on Earth.

Some of the images from the spacecraft show never-before-seen detail of material streaming outward and away from sunspots. Others show extreme close-ups of activity on the sun’s surface. The spacecraft also has made the first high-resolution measurements of solar flares in a broad range of extreme ultraviolet wavelengths.

NASA

via 3qd

“These initial images show a dynamic sun that I had never seen in more than 40 years of solar research,” said at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “SDO will change our understanding of the sun and its processes, which affect our lives and society. This mission will have a huge impact on science, similar to the impact of the Hubble Space Telescope on modern astrophysics.”

Richard Fisher, Director of NASA’s Heliophysics Division

NYT / GOOD

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hs-2010-13-a-large_web

Mystic Mountain

Speaking of which:

NASA’s best-recognized, longest-lived, and most prolific space observatory zooms past a threshold of 20 years of operation [since its launch] on April 24, 1990

Hubble discoveries revolutionized nearly all areas of current astronomical research, from planetary science to cosmology. And, its pictures were unmistakably out of this world. This brand new Hubble photo is of a small portion of one of the largest seen star-birth regions in the galaxy, the Carina Nebula. Towers of cool hydrogen laced with dust rise from the wall of the nebula.

Hubble Site / via Gawker

http://www.boingboing.net/89979_Hubble_STScI_2004_27-tm.jpg

Cat's Eye Nebula (NGC 6543)

Boingboing also has a gallery of Hubble images from the “stunning new book Hubble: A Journey Through Space and Time by Edward J. Weiler, published by Abrams in collaboration with NASA.”
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April 23, 2010

Pop Mu$ic

Ke$ha made a minor PR spla$h in the blog ocean (a drop in the Photobucket?) with a mediocre-to-bad performance on $NL last week (I’ll spare you the clips, but you can find them here). Yet pop pundits from across the internets have come to her defen$e, speculating that the “not dumb” pop$tar/rapper will eventually command some kind long-term po$t-reinvention cult following. In other words, we can already fondly look back at the passable Uffie-meets-Gaga single “TiK ToK,” because $he’s charting a path back to Na$hville.

Fred Falke transforms the bubbly electro party jam into a disco-funk banger, which I like about as much as the original (i.e. I’ve heard worse):

» Ke$ha – TiK ToK (Fred Falke Remix Radio Edit) (3:55) – 6MB mp3 @ 208kbps

Ke$ha in Interview Magazine; via Buzzfeed

Ke$ha in Interview Magazine; via Buzzfeed

Of course, Ke$ha is almost willfully eclipsed by the mega-ego of Lady Gaga’s hair alone, to say nothing of the Celebrity Incarnate herself. Indeed, insofar as Stefanie Germanotta’s alter ego represents pop-cultural cynosure the world over, she is regarded as a symbol (or symptom) of postmodernity, the subject and object of an ever-growing body of meta-commentary… not to mention a shitload of YouTube covers. There’s the usual conspiracy theories and folk psychological drivel, not to mention the sort of cultural criticism that is slightly too smart for its own good, namely Mark Dery’s recent ‘rockist’ retort to Sasha Frere-Jones’ review of Gaga from a year ago. (My own analysis, below, is decidedly less clever.)

Dery’s dissection of Lady Gaga and her (purportedly) apocryphal brilliance is worth reading, though I should caution that it’s on the heavy side: in a brief riposte from the pro-Gaga camp,* one commenter characterizes [Lord] Dery’s essay as “ridiculous long, very smart, [and] very namedroppy.” As far as I can tell, it comes down to a matter of whether fun and intelligence are mutually exclusive.

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