Monday, March 31, 2008

Free Radio: Boom or Bust?

The American public has always been fascinated with celebrities. The endless racks of tabloids at the supermarket are testament to this. Specifically, we like to watch celebrities hit rock bottom. I think South Park did a fine job with this phenomenon two weeks ago in the Britney Spears episode.

It is refreshing to see celebrities turn the tables on the American public once in awhile for a bit of self-parody. I recently finished watching the HBO series, Extras. In that show, a prominent celebrity guest stars each episode and is made to look like a buffoon. I will return to Extras in the future, but for now, I am going to talk about a great new VH1 show, Free Radio.

Free Radio is reminiscent of The Howard Stern Show in that it is a mash-up of radio and television. The main character is Lance Krall, an intern (and improv comedy actor) that lands the dream job of hosting his own show at a prominent radio station. The show is called “Moron in the Morning.” In the course of the half-hour, Lance belittles and discredits celebrity guests, often unintentionally. On this past week’s episode, he complimented Ray Romano for his show, which was great “for the first few seasons.” Lance speaks his mind about celebrities we often go out our way to protect. We prefer to pick apart a person’s personal life but not professional work. For Lance, nothing is off limits. The truth is, Everybody Loves Raymond did suffer with time. It just took a dimwitted intern to tell the star of the show that. The supporting cast is wonderful too.

Free Radio takes all the problems with American celebrity worship and makes them funny. The stars go on the show voluntarily and are in on the joke. Celebrities are most compelling when they are vulnerable.

Verdict: Boom. If you can spare a half-hour on a Friday night to watch this show, do it. Otherwise, invest in DVR, TiVO, or perhaps a VHS tape. You will not be disappointed. This is one my favorite new shows.

Friday, March 28, 2008

30 Minute Weekend Playlist (3/28/08)

Long time, no weekend playlist! I’m sorry about that, but I did not want to post one over spring break. Speaking of, how was everyone’s break? I picked up some crucial vinyl over the past month, including: Alkaline Trio – Goddamnit Redux (Red/black out of 500), Panda Bear – Person Pitch LP, Dykehouse – Midrange LP, Blacklisted – Heavier Than Heaven, Lonelier Than God (Clear/green out of 200, record release), The National – Alligator LP, and Saves the Day – Under the Boards LP (Green out of 300) is in the mail.

Now that I have that out of the way, let me tell you about my playlist choices. We start with a great Chameleons song I found via Harsh Distractions (link to the right). This week is a sort of crash course on all things Robert Pollard. He is the lead singer of Guided by Voices and has a thriving solo career now that GBV broke up. With over 1000 songs to his name, he is quite prolific. Other bands on the mix include XO Skeletons, Electric Wizard, The National, and the Beach Boys. The last two songs are particularly exciting. McCoy Tyner is a fantastic jazz pianist that goes unnoticed in most music circles that I’m a part of. The last song is my new favorite from the Blacklisted LP. It is called “Wish.” Sorry, but this is from the leak, so the mix at the beginning is sloppy. The problem was handled on the LP, which you can order at Deathwish. Happy weekend everyone. Tell me how the Repos, PITF, WN, and others were. Try not to hate on MLIW too much, they’re a good band. Adios!

  1. The Chameleons – The Fan and the Bellows
  2. Robert Pollard – I’m a Strong Lion
  3. The Beach Boys – Here Today
  4. XO Skeletons – Asthmagasm
  5. Electric Wizard – Satanic Rites of Drugula
  6. The National – Fashion Coat
  7. Guided By Voices – Game of Pricks
  8. Robert Pollard – U.S. Mustard Company
  9. McCoy Tyner – Impressions
  10. Blacklisted – Wish
Get it here!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Review: Blacklisted - Heavier than Heaven, Lonelier than God

In an effort to avoid riding Pitchfork’s coattails, here is my review of Blacklisted’s new LP, Heavier than Heaven, Lonelier than God.

When the first MP3 from the new record dropped (“I am Weighing me Down”), I flipped out. I knew instantly that the new album would be special. Move forward a few weeks, and I’m receiving messages from my friends that it had leaked. No, this was not the Evan Blanco/Rick Astley leak, but the actual leak, and I loved it upon first listen. Flash forward to Saturday night, and I have a physical copy (record release, hand-numbered /200, no less) in my hands.

The finished product sounds better than the leak, for sure. The mixing problems have been fixed, and the tracks are tagged properly. Blacklisted has subtly changed their sound from record to record, and this is their biggest leap yet. The songs are dynamic. There are massive tempo and style changes in each song. On their official myspace, they claim to be a soul and shoegaze band. This is a bit of an exaggeration, but they have some elements of those genres in place. “Circuit Breaker”, the album’s standout, has a psychedelic/noisy section that really stands out. “Touch Test” has an outro a la My Bloody Valentine. Read: this is not generic hardcore.

George’s vocal delivery is the best it has ever been. He wore a Cat Power shirt at Saturday’s show, and I can tell he is influenced by that sort of soulful music. On “Wish”, the stellar closer, he sneers, “Wish I wasn’t an emotional wreck.” The effect is massive. The lyrics, as usual, are great.

I have no complaints. The album is short; that’s about it. Go out and get the gatefold LP, it looks amazing. For fans of: groovy hardcore and Blacklisted. Is this the best Blacklisted material? Yes. Is this the album of the year so far? It just might be.

Friday, March 14, 2008

30 Minute Weekend Playlist (3/14/08)

Welcome back blogosphere! This edition of 30 Minute Playlist is brought to you courtesy of Spring Break! It’s here. I intend to relax in Downers Grove for the week and maybe drive out to a friend’s campus for good times. What do you intend to do? Are you even on Spring Break? Let’s hang out during the week; we’ll buy records or get lunch or drink alcohol. Sounds like a plan to me.

Naturally, the playlist has a lot of feel good jams in it. It starts out with Desmond Dekker’s ’69 classic, “Israelites.” If you don’t know, chances are you are not British. Youtube it. Marley’s oft-forgotten “So Much Things to Say” is next, followed by African musician, Fela Kuti. Driven to madness by Vampire Weekend, I naturally started listening to Paul Simon again. The Band of Horses song is a real winner. The playlist ends with a tune to cater to your inner parrothead. Fact or fiction: 4 Buffett tickets cost $407.35. I’ll put it out there and let you all decide.

  1. Desmond Dekker – Israelites
  2. Bob Marley – So Much Things to Say
  3. Fela Kuti – Trouble Sleep Yanga Wake AM
  4. Paul Simon – Graceland
  5. Panda Bear – Untitled 1
  6. Vampire Weekend – Campus
  7. Band of Horses – No One’s Gonna Love You
  8. Jimmy Buffett – He Went to Paris

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

That's Amore: Boom or Bust?

As I continue to write in this blog, you will all come to learn that I am guilty of watching really bad television. If it wasn’t enough that my first real entry was a review of The Steve Wilkos Show, I am now bringing you a review of the Tila Tequila SPINOFF. That’s right. Prepare yourselves, because I officially reviewing That’s Amore.

I hated Tila Tequila. It was boring, in bad taste, annoying, and soulless. The show had no real purpose except to provide kids with jerkin’ material in the absence of porn. The show had one star, and surprisingly, it wasn’t Tila, but a loveable Italian guy named Domenico. In the true spirit of reality television, he has received his own show. It is called That’s Amore, it's on MTV, and it’s great!

The show has no intellectual value. It is funny, absurd, and a showcase for hotties. In the first two episodes, girls have gone to the hospital and criticized each other non-stop. A gang of blondes teamed up on a slightly eccentric girl for wearing socks and not getting the standard Brazilian wax. One girl breaks down and cries every ten minutes. Domenico makes out whenever he gets a chance and awards Italian flags to girls he decides to keep around for the next episode. Two challenges have involved Italian food, with no end in sight. Mangia!

Domenico is hilarious, though, and he is the reason to watch. He kicked a girl off the show for having smelly armpits. How did he know? He put his nose up to them and took a whiff. That’s Amore is a good way to kill forty minutes (if you have TiVo or DVR).

Verdict: Boom. Compliments The Steve Wilkos Show nicely. If you can watch them back-to-back, by all means, do it. Arrivederce!

PS. Don't miss Domenico's sidekick...a hick cowboy...named Ashley. Not kidding.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Review: Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend

I’ll start by asking for a late pass, and I also have to apologize for sleeping on Vampire Weekend for about a month too long. Vampire Weekend is the early frontrunner for the most-hyped band of 2008 award, and with good reason. Their debut is smart, catchy, and likely to top some critics’ best-of lists in nine months.

This record smokes in more than one way. For starters, it is just over 34 minutes. That’s short, even by indie pop standards. Secondly, the songs are compact, straightforward, and generally fast. “The Kids Don’t Stand a Chance” ends just as you think “Mansard Road” has begun.

What I like most about this record is the use of clean guitar and clever global hooks. The songs seem easy enough to play, but are neatly executed for fans of precision. The drummer is excellent, especially on “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” when he uses bongos (or something like that). The vocalist is confident, even if his lyrics are absurd.

This brings me to my biggest complaint about the record: the lyrics. They are trite, hard to relate to, and generally snobbish. I’m sure they get this criticism all the time, so I don’t have to go any further. If you like songs about yachts, Vampire Weekend is for you!

Don’t sleep on this band any longer: go out and get Vampire Weekend ASAP (or at least before you bring the fishing boat out of winter storage). For fans of: Paul Simon’s Graceland, unique pop music, Cape Cod, African grooves, and clean guitars.

Friday, March 7, 2008

30 Minute Weekend Playlist (3/7/08)

This is the first installment of my thirty minute playlist feature. I think it will be a smash hit on my fresh, up-and-coming blog!

The beginning of the playlist starts with some tunes that will get you all ready for Spring. Song five is from the Blacklisted leak and takes the playlist in a sinister, heavy, and noisy direction. This does not last long, however, as I ease the mix back into the smooth department at about 26 minutes. On the weekend, who has the time to listen to two hour mixes? Not me! The Starting Line song is there to provide evidence of their illustrious career as a band- a career that was put on indefinite hiatus this past week.

1. Vampire Weekend – A-Punk

2. Beatnik Termites – Red Haired Girl

3. El Guincho – Kalise

4. Beach House – Wedding Bell

5. Blacklisted – Circuit Breaker

6. Pulling Teeth – Stonethrowers

7. The Starting Line – Hello Houston

8. Logh – Note on Bathroom Mirror

9. Medeski, Martin, Scofield, and Wood – Julia

Remember: I am not going to host files for download. I assume my loyal reader(s) have some, if not all of the songs. I would be willing to send them somewhere else, but not in this blog. Maybe in person! Or on AIM! SN - Panther1215.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Review: Beach House - Devotion

Beach House is a relatively new band from Baltimore, Maryland. Their self-titled debut was released in 2006 to much critical acclaim. They recently released their sophomore effort called Devotion.

Beach House is a two-piece band, but I do not feel like this limits them in any way, especially on record. The music sounds lush and complete like there are more musicians playing. Their sound is restrained and pretty. There is no harshness, and for the most part, the songs are of a slower tempo.

The singer Victoria has a nice voice that sits easy in the mix. It is neither buried nor distracting. Back up singer Alex harmonizes really well to add subtle nuances to the songs. This record is great for a variety of moods. It is breezy enough to be a compliment to the spring weather, but thoughtful in a way that would warrant nice/winter listening. In other words, Devotion is a versatile record.

My biggest problem with the record is that I cannot see it becoming a staple of my listening repertoire in the distant future. I am really into it now, and I have spun it about eight times since I got it last week. On the other hand, I can see it becoming a once-a-month-or-two record as 2008 goes on.

I highly recommend Devotion. For fans of: Asobi Seksu, other assorted dream pop, electronic music, and female vocalists. My favorite tracks are Wedding Bell and Heart of Chambers. You can hear the latter on their myspace page.