Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Desalinization of Surf Music and the Rise of the Panda Band

In the past few years surf music has taken on a whole new meaning. Back in the day, the Beach Boys layered warm melodies with even warmer harmonies that captured the surf spirit of all day fun and sun. Dick Dale wrote speedy riffs based in strange scales that was a somewhat ethereal sonic definition for riding one of those barreling Hawaiian breakers and escaping those crashing curls. And this was all during the days of longboards and “hanging ten” a type of surfing that hardly encapsulates the speed and excitement that the modern shortboard has brought to the sport.

Yet in this era of shortboards, whose shape allows for a higher control and agility over the wave, a paradox has come about with the sound that surfing has been attached to. The Jack Johnson posse of “oh-I’m-so-laid-back-brudda-ness” is just plain nonsensical and nauseating as a genre that it makes me not even want to surf anymore (a completely untrue statement by the author under a breath of heartless hyperbole). It’s as if these songwriters have become more infatuated with the after-surf reefer than the actual activity that goes on in the water.

Thankfully, the Panda Band has brought a nice twist to my animate dismay of surfer music. But to call the Panda Band’s music surfer-music would be like calling Cold War Kids’ music Christian-rock. It would be more acceptable to label the Panda Band as a group of surfers that have actually taken the excitement of their sport and transposed it into song and lyric. There are the aesthetics that most surfers will identify with: the spiritual overtones (“Eyelashes”), the science of waves (“High In Your Saddle”), the athletic bodies (“Lovely Shoulders”), and endless summer love stories (“We’ve Got The Face of the Earth”). But through all this, the Panda Band isn’t in the least bit alienating to those less than seaworthy but rather capable of enrapturing any with their easy on the heart and sharp to the touch take on pop.

[mp3] The Panda BandEyelashes
[mp3] The Panda BandMusical Chairs

BONUS [mp3] The Beach BoysSurfin’ Safari
BONUS [mp3] Dick DaleMisirlou

Pick up a copy of the Panda Band's the Vital Chapter here.

Continue reading "The Desalinization of Surf Music and the Rise of the Panda Band"

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Shapes and Sizes can't stand still

Thanks to Gorilla Vs Bear, my relationship with Shapes and Sizes is well established. The song "Wilderness" has crept onto several mixtapes, and has been a general source of happiness for me over the last six months. I love its somber introduction and dual male-female vocals. "Wilderness" also has a shape-shifting quality that caught my attention upon first listening. At the time, the whistling midway through the track felt somewhat out of place, given the song's initial tone; yet it was difficult to draw any conclusions without hearing the song in the surrounding context of the album.

When I eventually acquired their self-titled LP, I imagined a moody creation in the vein of Grizzly Bear. To my surprise, Shapes and Sizes actually resemble the schizophrenic tradition of The Fiery Furnaces. Like The Furnaces, Shapes and Sizes infuse multiple pop songs into each track. Halfway through "Island's Gone Bad," an abrupt shift in melody occurs - must be the next song. Before settling into this theory, the original theme of "Island's" blends back into the speakers, prompting a confused glance at the iTunes player. Blueberry Boat brought upon this same reaction of never knowing when a song was over. Unlike Blueberry Boat, Shapes and Sizes makes an effort to contain its wandering, and benefits from it.

Because the band has three songwriters, it's easy to understand the album's scattered nature. Still, all great albums must have a unified purpose. While this doesn't necessarily translate as an overt concept LP, the listener needs to experience the album as a whole in order to gain from it. The unifying theme of Shapes and Sizes is juxtaposition. Instead of blending three songwriters into one, the album takes on the story of three unique voices. Even then, the structure it not so black and white. Instead of quarantining the songwriters to separate tracks (a la Wolf Parade), the members of Shapes and Sizes co-inhabit the same world. This fact only becomes apparent once you have the album. Listening to "Weekend at a Time" without "I am Cold" following it leaves the experience unfinished. Although I am partial to the more sedated sections of Shapes and Sizes, I greatly appreciate the diversity contained throughout my journey.

Go buy Shapes and Sizes right now at emusic.

[mp3] Shapes and Sizes - Wilderness

[mp3] Shapes and Sizes - Islands Gone Bad

Shapes and Sizes are also coming through LA in December, and it promises to be a great show.

12/20/06 - Spaceland (buy tix)

Continue reading "Shapes and Sizes can't stand still"

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Lost & Found: Jeff Buckley Rarities

Sometimes good things come to those who wait. It would be unfair to talk about my love for Jeff Buckley without talking about my love affair, and apparent obsession with his only finished album, Grace. Ever since Grace has entered my life, I have been on the mission of spreading the gospel of that album, and the tragedy of its creator - who was taken far too early from this earth. But of course, that raises the question of if Buckley’s greatness is rather a result of the fact that he was taken so early, leaving us with the questions of “what if?” and “what next?”

Would another album have spoiled the perfection? Could he ever have out done that which he did on Grace? I know many are already asking those same questions regarding another Jeff (Mangum), and his masterpiece In the Aeroplane over the Sea. If an artist reached his potential is there a reason to ever try and do it again?

In my opinion, I think there is a reason, for different periods come different experiences that shape and affect the way ones sees the world around them. I am a believer that the only thing a piece of art can be compared to is itself, and that its validity is only found in regard to how well the artist is able to translate that specific feeling, vision, or thought. Grace has achieved this in my eyes and it would be interesting to see how Buckley, if alive today would be 40 years old, would translate his art if he was around presently. With these little gems of non-album tracks it is only imaginable that it would be something we would all want to hear.

[mp3] Jeff Buckley & Elizabeth FraserAll Flowers In Time Bend Towards The Sun
[mp3] Jeff BuckleyForget Her
[mp3] Jeff Buckley Grace (Studio Demo)
[mp3] Jeff BuckleyWhat Will You Say (Live)
[mp3] Jeff BuckleyI Want Someone Badly (w/ Shudder To Think)

Has anyone seen the Jeff Buckley documentary Amazing Grace: Jeff Buckley? I know it has been making the rounds at film festivals but I haven’t heard any first accounts. If you have had a chance to see it the Content would love to hear your thoughts about it?

Continue reading "Lost & Found: Jeff Buckley Rarities"

Monday, November 27, 2006

The Rapture rupture the Fonda / Love is All step on the beat at the Echo

The Rapture
started a dance punk revival in 2003 with Echoes, Love Is All wear their influence on their sleeve ("Love is All" is a Rapture song) - what a great opportunity to compare live shows.

Last Monday at the Fonda, The Rapture accomplished the impossible, by getting everyone in the room to dance - the entire show. I'm not talking about some mild hip shaking, but an all out dance party. We would start dancing in one corner of the room, and end up in a completely different spot by the next song. With a wealth of material spanning Out of The Races to Pieces of the People We Love, the show was everything a Rapture fan could desire. The Rapture kept the energy high all show, by performing a seamless set of music with no commentary or instrument tuning.
Unlike so many concerts in LA where people look bored and ambivalent, this night was about a love for music, and it made me proud to be an Angeleno.

Earlier in the month, I witnessed Love is All play their final show of the tour at The Echo (it was The Rapture's last show also. Crazy). However, unlike The Rapture show, few people danced. This isn't to say people didn't enjoy the show; the band just hasn't established a devoted fanbase yet. While the Swedish four piece didn't re-invent the wheel with their debut LP, they did create a handful of great pop songs. In a short but satisfying set, Love is All plowed through most of Nine Times That Same Song , and added two new tracks. Unfortunately, lag time between songs slowed the stamina, but they were too nice for us to hold it against them.

The Rapture and Love is All have the same goal - making people dance. The former are at the top of their game, while the latter are just beginning to bloom. Future touring partners?

[mp3] The Rapture - Get Myself Into It

[mp3] Love is All - Make Out Fall Out Make Up (via my Stress Relief Mix)

Photo Cred Los Anjealous

Continue reading "The Rapture rupture the Fonda / Love is All step on the beat at the Echo"

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Bloc Party - The Prayer

Bloc Party are preparing to release their sophomore album, Weekend in the City, and it makes me wonder where all the time has gone. My mind jumps back to the end of 2004 when I first heard "Tulips" and "Banquet," then to my obsession with Silent Alarm / Silent Alarm Remixed, and finally to my experience with Bloc Party at Coachella last year.

Weekend in the City has a lot to live up to, and frontman Kele Okereke has made statements insuring the album's new direction. Vice sent us the new single earlier this week, and we wanted to share it with you.

Bloc Party - The Prayer (stream)

[mp3] Bloc Party - Kele talking about "The Prayer"

After several listens, I'm really enjoying it, although I hope to hear more variety out of the remainder of the album.. What are your thoughts?

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Friday, November 24, 2006

Explosions in the Sky welcome the ghosts

The Content slacked in getting to see Explosions in the Sky here in LA a few weeks ago. Yeah, we were bummed too. Fortunately, we are not slacking at getting you a brand new song from the band's forthcoming release, All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone, due out this February. That may be a long while out, but at least you have a killer new song to add to your study mix for your upcoming finals. Good luck and we hope you all had a happy Turkey Day.

[mp3] Explosions in the Sky - Welcome, Ghosts
[mp3] Explosions in the Sky - Day Six (from the Rescue EP)
[mp3] Explosions in the Sky - Your Hand In Mine (with strings) (from the Friday Night Lights OST)

Buy Explosions in the Sky at eMusic.

Continue reading "Explosions in the Sky welcome the ghosts"

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Jolie Holland and Vetiver @ The Jensen Rec

RC's master of the lens, Braedon, made it out to the Jolie Holland show last week, and wanted to share his experience with you:

How quickly you can travel back in time listening to Jolie Holland. What an old fashioned voice in a young, contemporary woman. Holland grew up in Texas, which gives roots to her folkier side, but when you hear her music, it’s hard not to picture yourself in a New York dive bar during the 1920’s. Her music has a bit of a jazz, folk fusion with vocals that keep you intent on the songs. Casablanca comes to mind. Small intimate bars or clubs, dark and dreary with Jolie Holland’s subtle but vibrant voice piercing the air.

Jolie Holland came through LA and performed at the Jensen Rec Center, which provided a perfect atmosphere. A photo studio by day and concert venue by night, the Jensen Rec is great. A fireplace on one side of the venue, couches, a balcony, small enough to be intimate, and great sound. The night was good and Jolie sounded brilliant.

Jolie Holland's site

[mp3] Jolie Holland - Crazy Dreams

Preceding Jolie Holland, Vetiver manned the stage with a presence to be felt. The band came with a bearded entourage of friends and fans. Looking at the band, you would think you're back in the 70's. On stage, Vetiver can play. The band has a taste of country, rock and folk, with hints of Ryan Adams and Iron & Wine. Their performance is worth seeing and CD that deserves a purchase.

Vetiver's myspace

Sonny Smith is an interesting cat. Accompanied by only a guitar (there was a drummer on one or two songs), Sonny singing songs as if he were reading each like a poem. Very simple music, presented in a storyteller fashion.

Sonny Smith's site

all photos by

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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Joanna Newsom brings out the child

The earliest of my memories was a surprise that I knew was on its way. My mother could only have hidden her baby belly for so long; yet, I can’t remember what it was like as a small child, of nearly one, to watch my young mother’s stomach stretch and bulge until it one day disappeared, and my young sister was brought home to me. Time began at that moment for me. As I sat on the edge of our brown sofa in my families first home, I frightfully gripped at my sister’s fatty, soft body, fearful that my weakness would allow her to fall the one and a half feet to the floor. Deep in my imagination, I can hear that little person singing a song of a far away land, of the long trip she had just completed.

It’s funny how Joanna Newsom’s new album, Ys, is soundtracking this time travel back to my first memory, given that the opening track is based upon experiences between Joanna and her sister, Emily. Ys, filled with the tender hiccupping of a new born creaking out its initial attempts at communication, rests on personal stories that Newsom has experienced over the last year, or so, of her life. “Monkey & Bear” personifies the fiercest and wiliest of creatures to tell the story of escape and return, where “Sawdust & Diamonds” paints a picture of the warming of long faces between cackles and rolling chords.

With the love affair that so many had with Newsom’s last release, The Milk-Eyed Mender, it has been no surprise that so many have fallen in love with the supremacy of song and lyric that is demonstrated on Ys. Besides the long-winded, detailed stories that make up Ys, the aesthetic that ties it all together so well is the fluttering orchestration of Van Dyke Parks. Known for his vast amount of cross genre work spanning more than 40 years in music, Van Dyke Parks envelopes Newsom’s harp and vocal with flourishes of strings that create an other worldly landscape to the already other worldly narratives. It would be easy to imagine riding along a Disney-esque log ride, following the story lines of “Monkey & Bear” as you go “spelunking down in those caves,” and watch as Bear goes, “sneaking away to the seaside caverns to bathe.” It is no wonder that with compositions this dense with imagination and technique that many are considering it one of the years best.

Joanna NewsomCosmia
[mp3] Joanna NewsomEmily (Live)
Joanna NewsomBridges and Balloons (from the Milk-Eyed Mender)

[mp3] The Decemberists Bridges and Balloons (Joanna Newsom Cover)
BONUS [mp3] Brian WilsonCabin Essence (lyrics by Van Dyke Parks)
BONUS [mp3] Van Dyke ParksCurtain Call (from the Company OST)

Buy Joanna Newsom’s music at eMusic. Be sure to catch her at one of her LA-area dates. Read Pitchfork’s interview with Joanna here. Photo cred.

11/29/06 – Malibu Performing Arts Center (tix)
11/30/06 – El Rey (tix)

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Monday, November 20, 2006

Working Out the Tension

Have you ever been massaged by music? Then I guess it's about time you were. I've compiled a playlist below, which is meant to release the stress and tension caused by daily life. I personally have major issues with tension: tight shoulders, stiff neck, crippling headaches. I blame it on LA and work. Shocking, I know. Slowly, I've found select songs that consistently cure me from life's woes.These songs (each in their own way) are able to transport my mind away from the day, and into a cloud of soundwaves.

I've broken the playlist into three sections, to offer a variety of prescriptions for your stress. The songs vary from electro dance pop to sedated acoustic melodies, depending on your attitude for the night. If you want to c
onfuse yourself, put all the songs on a playlist, and hit shuffle.

SURRENDER or How to melt into the wallpaper:
This group of tracks is meant for a night spent on the living room floor. These songs aren't here to cheer you up, or put you to sleep - they are for the numbing of the mind. We'll call it a musical lobotomy.

Mogwai - 1% Monster
[mp3] Grizzly Bear - Colorado
[mp3] Liars - Garden Was Crowded And Outside

RISE ABOVE or F-ck it lets have a party:
When it's time to push through the exhaustion, crack open a Sparks and get down to business, these songs will keep both body and mind in rhythm.

[mp3] Metric - Monster Hospital (MSTRKRFT remix)
[mp3] The Rapture - House of The Jealous Lovers
[mp3] Love Is All - Make Out Fall Out Make Up

or The rational choice for stress relief:
Consider this your middle of the week mix. Because you're not quite in the mood for a Sparks, a soothing melody becomes the perfect way to cut out the clutter of the day.

[mp3] Radiohead - Videotape
[mp3] Sufjan Stevens - Casimir Pulaski Day (live @ KCRW)
[mp3] Elliott Smith - Pitseleh

Obviously this is just a starter mix, so expand how you see fit.

Bonus Track:
Nothing puts me in a better mood than listening to Demetri Martin's comedy cd, These Are Jokes. Brilliant.

[mp3] Demetri Martin - Some More Jokes

Continue reading "Working Out the Tension"

Friday, November 17, 2006

Tralala forget themselves

Tralala would like you to notice the lack of the “the” before their band name. It would make sense to see that pretentious little word affixed to their name since, at first glance, Tralala is a girl band that comes with the usual fashions of handclaps and harmonies that their predecessors used so well. But then at second glance, Tralala winds up, bends a hip, and shimmies away to the middle of the dance floor where there isn’t anything pretty going down. This second pass helps you realize that this isn’t a girl group as much as it is a punk outfit from New York that shares and fights over vocal duties the way only four girls could.

Pretentious? I think not. Highly self aware of the limitations of their own sound, Tralala attempts to capture their audience in little flashes of song, two minute commentaries that remind us of the potency of Spector pop and Ramones' riffs. It doesn't really get much simpler than this but sometimes that is all we need.

TralalaWe’re Coming Out
[mp3] TralalaAre You Gonna Dance (With Me)?

Buy Tralala at eMusic. Be sure to check out their Christmas EP since it is almost time to pull out those dusty tapes once again.

12/6/06 - Spaceland (w/ Annuals, Jim Noir) (tix)

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Thursday, November 16, 2006

Wolf Eyes bring noise and cd-r's to The Echo

Oh joy, my first noise concert. What sorts of dark witchery will I run into at such an event? Turns out Wolf Eyes has a very eclectic fanbase, which includes females (who knew?). I spotted a lot of indie couples, a few leather jacket punks, one middle-aged business type, and an assortment of stoners. What gross stereotype did I fall into, you say? Well I do wear glasses, so I'll go with ponderous, "I get this whole noise thing" guy.

Mistakenly, I arrived at The Echo way too early, forcing me to experience both opening acts. Sick Llamas didn't do much for me. The sound he was putting out was bland and the execution was clumsy. Maybe it was just an off night, but he never fell into a groove during his 20 minute set. Raven Strain, also a one man act, had a lot more depth to his noise making. His transitions were smooth, and he created a soundscape I was able to submerge myself in.

Wolf Eyes is synonymous with noise. They've become the cool noise band to like, but don't let that deter you, because they deserve every merit. Throughout their set, the trio creeped at snails pace, painfully building the tension, until it was too much for some to bear. People in the front screamed for a release. At any sign of a building fury, heads began to nod, trying to push the music along, but Wolf Eyes held their ground. Thicker and thicker, the growl of sax, tapes and bass filled the space, until the timing was just right. With fists pumping, the walls came crashing down. The 20 minute build had finally been released, and everyone took advantage of the moment. The night consisted of two long builds and two short releases. The final explosion was "Rusted Mange," which created a tornado of bodies out of the once docile crowd. While I went to this show with a "gotta see Wolf Eyes once" attitude, I sit here wanting more. Since so much of their performance is based on instinct and feel, each show is open to infinite possibilities.

For devoted Wolf Eyes fans, the merch table is as important as the live show. An assortment of limited CD-R, vinyl and cassette releases lay waiting to be consumed. Each one is handmade, and sold on a first come, first serve basis. I ended up with "Vol. 6" of their Wheels of Confusion piece. Truthfully, I just closed my eyes and pointed to something. Wolf Eyes is impossible to keep up with, releasing a massive amount of work between each major LP. Check out wikipedia for a partial catalogue. So I bought a single piece of the gigantic puzzle and made my exit.

When I got home, my first instinct was to import my mysterious purchase into itunes, and see what sort of treasure it held. Taking a quick scan through the single, 38 minute track - I found my efforts utterly worthless. It was equivalent to picking up a novel, flipping through its pages, and deciding whether it was worth reading. Just as a novel will undoubtedly be filled with a spattering of words, a Wolf Eyes cd exists as a continuous collection of noise. It is sequence that gives value to both words and sounds.

After listening to "Vol. 6" once through, any lingering doubts about noise music, instantly dissolved. It's not really "Vol. 6" that did it though, it just happened to be the final step in solidifying my respect for Wolf Eyes. I'd listened to all their major releases, I'd finally experienced their live show, and now I'd heard their DIY recordings. Wolf Eyes has delivered on every promise. They are prolific, but never sloppy. Instead of 38 minutes of careless drone, "Vol 6" is full of detail and structure. If you want to give noise a chance, start with Wolf Eyes' Dread, and work your way out from there.

Read RC's Human Animal review.

[mp3] Wolf Eyes - The Driller

Photo CRED

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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

O’death, deliver us from evil

I had been familiar with “Dueling Banjos” far before I was able to associate it with the horror that Deliverance introduced me to. But after seeing the film, it is impossible for me not to conjure up my deepest darkest fears of getting lost in the forest and captured by the vilest of snaggletoothed hillbillies.

Yet in listening to O’death, it is easy for me to imagine that the life back there beyond the woods, where the yellow teeth grow crooked and the women beard up like Sam Beam, ain’t all that horrible. I can only imagine that O’death is back there, deep in a forgotten Appalachian cabin playing to a group of savaged hearts as they dance and prance and bang their whiskey glasses together and throw their woman out open windows. Avoiding such terms as gothic country, O’death howl and tear through songs that could translate as the biographical lyrics of a ghost from beyond the grave as well as a mere drunken, communal gathering of love. From stories of their live performances, the latter seems to be the case.

O’deathDown To Rest
[mp3] O’deathOnly Daughter

BONUS [mp3] Ralph StanleyO’Death (from the O’ Brother, Where Art Thou? OST)
BONUS [mp3] Eric WeissbergDueling Banjos (from the Deliverance OST)

Four more tracks from O’death’s Head Home are available for download at the band’s website. Purchase Head Home at Insound for 15% off (coupon code: odeath15).

Check out an interview with O’death over at Gothamist.

Continue reading "O’death, deliver us from evil"

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Fresh Faced Artist: Continental Divide

Calling an artist "honest" is an ambiguous statement. In the words of a good man: all bad art is honest. Identifying the wheat from the chaff is a difficult task, and I'll admit personal opinion plays a large role in the process. If I feel akin to an artist, it is easier for me to accept moments of blunt lyricism or simplified musicianship. I've grown to view Ben Gibbard, Jamie Stewart and Conor Oberst as if they were family; however, I respect a well crafted argument opposing their musical approach.

Continental Divide is honest. I like Continental Divide. Some will agree, some will not - thus the divide. The purpose of RC's Fresh Faced Artist series is to introduce artists during the early stages of their musical careers. Nathan
(songwriter) sent me an EP he recorded in his bedroom, and I immediately connected with it.

The production is very unpolished, capturing a live feel similar to early Bright Eyes. It exists as an uncut diamond-- rough but valuable. The EP also proves that Continental Divide is well versed in a slew of indie rock sounds. For example, "Track #1" nails a moody Pedro The Lion bass riff, with an equally culling vocal melody. Lyrically, Nathan presents an unchecked evocation of his thoughts, which adds further intimacy to the EP. This is where the grey area of "honesty" comes in. The spectrum is established with Elliott Smith on the genius end, and the guy from Dashboard Confessional on the not-so-good end. In my eyes, Nathan ends up on the right side of the grey matter. His literal storytelling is unforced and has a unique poetic quality, which draws the listener in. If Nathan does have a bit of Conor in him, I can't wait to hear his next batch of recordings.

Be sure to download the tracks below, and to visit Continental Divide's myspace page here. Nathan is currently in the process of recording, and will be touring, so keep a close watch on CD's site.

[mp3] Continental Divide - Track #1

One more track to come!


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Monday, November 13, 2006

Eternal Sunshine for the Studying Mind – a mixtape for the student

For those of you that don’t know, I am a student at UCLA. It seems like my life as an undergrad is a never-ending battle, something that I find no comfort in with the horror stories I hear of life after the final bell and my fancy square hat is thrown in the air. But ever since beginning my college curriculum I have found comfort in the music I am able to listen to while I am studying.

Of course, I have always been mighty picky of the type of music that I could listen to while hitting the books. Lyrics are distracting, anything too poppy gets me humming, and something sad takes all the hope away that any successful work will be accomplished.

Since the rise of the iPod, our generation has grown more and more talented at soundtracking our lives with an infinite mixtape for all our activities. The Content is far from innocent in this regard (see the ‘Go Out and Vote' mixtape, the ‘Back to School Love Story’, and our beloved ‘2006 Summer Mixtape’) and yet this little activity is a lot more prevalent in our individual lives than it appears here on our site. Hence, the following mixtape, a collection of hopeful, progressive ambience that will have you nodding your head in appreciation as you work toward your harshest of deadlines.

Good luck, you may begin.

[mp3] The Album LeafThe Outer Banks
[mp3] Explosions In The SkyThe Only Moment We Were Alone
[mp3] Mogwai2 Rights Make 1 Wrong
[mp3] The BooksTokyo
[mp3] AminaFjarskanistan

Note: Since all these albums are really great, please go and support these artists and the wonderful sonic structures that they create. This is also a good time to notice that
on November 21st, eMusic will be downgrading the amount of downloads available with each subscription as follows:
  • eMusic Basic - 30 downloads per month (formerly 40)
  • eMusic Plus - 50 per month (formerly 65)
  • eMusic Premium - 75 downloads per month (formerly 90)
If you join eMusic before the 21st of this month, as a valued customer your current amount of downloads per month will remain the same. Basically, if you want to get more bang for your buck, then go and join eMusic right now. If you are already a member, upgrade. Seriously, it really doesn’t get any better than this (if you have a conscience).

Continue reading "Eternal Sunshine for the Studying Mind – a mixtape for the student"

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Biggie Smalls is the illest

I'm eleven years old. Complimentary AA headphones cling to my head, tangled amongst a matted sea of pale blond hair. A knotted black wire winds its way towards my hip pocket, ending at the source of my musical education. The bulky Walkman facilities the once blank tape, now filled with Snoop Dog and Notorious B.I.G.

Am I in Brooklyn, N. Hollywood, Detroit? No, I'm in Orange County watering a neighbor's plants, while they are on vacation. I am an alien to crack deals, guns and weed. Although I know each one's function, my mind paints a strange scene imagining the associated lifestyle. Listening to the music, I have no dream of replicating the actions of Snoop or Biggie. While their tales of murder, sex and drugs have a glorified air, the music's auotobiographical perspective intrigues me most. My life and the lives presented through my headphones are at polar opposites. I might have found more in common with a penpal from Korea, but I enjoyed my bootleg cassette relationship.

As with any great story, there is an element of the forbidden. Gangster Rap wasn't quite on the corriculum at my house, which meant my tapes were unmarked and my headphones held close. How would I explain myself if caught? What is ok about degrading women and seeking vengance with a bullet? From the vantage point of twelve years, I'd say my fascination spawned from how Ready to Die and Doggystyle opened my eyes to some of life's harsh realities. The albums allowed me to communicate with the people society forgot. The resulting music is a reaction to the world they exist in. People always say they admire country music because it tells a personal story. Hip-hop is based on this same principle; however, this fact is brushed aside, because the public doesn't want to hear the stories rapper have to tell.

The reason for this post is quite simple: to show people the brilliance of Biggie Smalls. Notorious wrote two albums in three years, consolidating the human experience into Ready To Die and Life After Death. The former LP starts at Biggie's birth, and journeys until his suicide, while the latter follows a pseudo life after his death. The two LPs even run seamless between each other. After completed his second album Notorious BIG died. It sounds like a cliche Hollywood plot, but is his true legacy. Like no other artist I know, Notorious BIG created a single masterwork out of his career and life. The work of art is the entire experience.

With a four year gap between listens, I picked up both albums a few weeks ago, and was pleasantly surpirsed that every song passed the test of time. Ready To Die remains my favorite of the two. The tracks are raw and unchecked, and the album's narrative is ambitious. Life After Death shows a more confident Biggie, both lyrically and in production. The sound is much cleaner on this album, and the narrative focuses on the struggles of being on top.

[mp3] Notorious BIG - Gimme The Loot

[mp3] Notorious BIG - Somebody's Gotta Die

If you think hip hop is a waste of time, buy these albums.

Continue reading "Biggie Smalls is the illest"

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Compare and Contrast: songs that sound like other songs

It can’t be any coincidence that all young songwriters, when first learning how to play guitar and put together songs, come up with some insane melody or chord progression that blows your socks off. But after listening to one full bar it all sounds eerily familiar, as in it might possibly be the refrain from that one song by that one band that you wish you could remember because it sounds a lot like it. Sound familiar songwriters?

Well, this little experience seems to be shared by a lot more than your friends and their attempts at song writing. It seems to happen quite a lot in modern music and more often than not somebody is able to notice it. Sometimes a really good song is reminiscent of another good song and other times these similarities can come off as ridiculously abusive. Here are some great songs that sound like other great songs as well as a few that are guilty of blatant plagiarism. We could call this post “rip off artists" or "copy cats" or something else like that but the Content will just leave the verdict up to you guys. Enjoy comparing and contrasting, we await your swift judgments in the comments section.

- The Good -

[mp3] The Little OnesLovers Who Uncover
[mp3] The Spinto BandOh, Mandy
Both of these songs have been played to endless numbers on my iPod and even though there are hints at the other, I still love both of them.

[mp3] The RonettesBe My Baby
[mp3] The PipettesSex
That drum beat and a manufactured girl pop band, how can it get any closer than that?

[mp3] Neutral Milk HotelOh, Comely
[mp3] The DecemberistsLeslie Anne Levine
My favorite NMH song paired with the first song I ever heard by the Decemberists. No wonder I agreed with those kids making the NMH/Decemberist comparisons.

[mp3] Jens LekmanA Sweet Summer’s Night On Hammer Hill
[mp3] The RonettesDo I Love You
Those little poppy intros on both of these songs are wonderful. I am not saying that this is a rip off but I sure did take a double (and maybe quadruple) listen to both of these lovelies.

- The Bad -

[mp3] Radiohead - Lucky
[mp3] The Din PedalsAliens
Just wait for that bridge in “Aliens,” its down right wrong that somebody thinks they can get away with ripping off the breakdown from the anthem of our generation. No wonder the Din Pedals got brushed under the rug long before anyone had even heard of them.

- The Ugly -

[mp3] Cat StevensFather and Son
[mp3] The Flaming LipsFight Test
Now I know that this is old news and that the Lips have begged for forgiveness in a way that only legitimate artists could (with royalties) but it is still crazy listening to this even if its not your first time.

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Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Being Marie Antoinette

God help us
We are too young to reign
-Louis XVI

Upon uttering this phrase, the tragic nature of Louis XVI's plight solidified in my heart. The scene takes place at the commencement of the third act in Sofia Coppola's latest film, Marie Antoinette. Until that moment, the impending death of Marie Antoinette had naively remained absent from my thoughts--a sleight of hand I credit to Sofia's diligent directing. Marie Antoinette is a film about lives existing within, or more appropriately, in spite of, the imposing customs of the aristocracy.

As way of demonstrating Marie's isolated existence in Versailles, the film presents an obsessively secluded account of her time in power. The filmic result is understandably varied. Much of the onscreen action focuses on the overindulgence of food and drink, and the exploration of vast gardens. These scenes play superficial to some, but are vital to the story of Marie Antoinette. Hers is a narrative of privilege, and of ignorance's high cost.

The most important moments of the film exist in the time between symbolic tradition. It is this background dialogue scattered throughout the film, which informs each character's true nature - outside of their aristocratic pose. The overlapping audio tracks made me immediately think of Robert Altman, who invented the concept of running multiple conversations simultaneously. Sofia adopts this ideal in her presentation of court gossip. It is purposely overwhelming for the audience, in order to give perspective on Marie's hostile surroundings.

While Louis is too weak to command the throne, Marie is too strong to submit to tradition, and collectively they are blind to the turbulent state of France. On paper the story is filled with drama, but Sofia consciously omits the majority of this action. No blood is shed onscreen, and the people of France are all but forgotten. This is a story of adolescence, and once it is suffocated by the outside world, the film is over.

Because of the bold stylistic and narrative choices made in the film, the soundtrack is the glue holding the entire production together. With a smile-inducing mix of 80's pop (and even my favorite Strokes songs), the soundtrack's warm tone meshes beautifully with the lush tapestry of 18th century France.

[mp3] Gang of Four - Natural's Not In It
[mp3] New Order - Ceremony
[mp3] The Cure - Plainsong
[mp3] The Strokes - What Ever Happened?

During the closing credits of the film, a gentleman behind me remarked, "I guess she must have missed a few chapters of the story." Although that reaction is understandable, it misses the subtle drama and focus found in Marie Antoinette. Cinema is not obligated to be a historical textbook. The point of cinema is to express theme and narrative without restriction. Sofia Coppola has stayed true to this in all three of her films, making her one of my favorite directors. Since the scope of Marie Antoinette is dramatically larger than her past work, the film does misstep occasionally. However, this is my only concession to the critics, because whatever Marie Antoinette lacks in precision, it easily makes up in ambition, heart and style.

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The "Go Out and Vote" Mixtape

This is the day we have all been waiting for - the Midterm Elections are finally upon us. If there is one thing you all need to do today, it's to lock yourself in one of those cardboard containers with the makeshift curtain, and vote for the things that you think will better society. Even if you aren't sure on all the issues, at least vote for the things you do have an opinion on. Today is a day to exercise a few of the freedoms that gives us the hope that change can happen. Happy voting from the Content.

The “Go Out and Vote” Mixtape:

Rage Against the Machine - Take The Power Back
[mp3] M.I.A. - Pull Up The People
[mp3] Radiohead - Electioneering
[mp3] Ryan Adams - Political Scientist
[mp3] The Submarines - Vote
[mp3] Coldplay - Politik
[mp3] Bloc Party - Price of Gasoline
[mp3] Sunset Rubdown - They Took A Vote And Said No

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Monday, November 06, 2006

Spector's symphonies for the kids

"Songs that last three minutes and forever. Phil Spector brought a grand, ennobling passion to the teen love song. His 'wall of sound' moved both bodies and hearts - launching what may be the most personal and stylistically unified series of mulit-artist recordings in pop history. That Phil Spector's hits will live on in the digital age is cause for celebration."
- Kurt Loder, Rolling Stone

In taking a step back, it really is quite amazing how Phil Spector revolutionized the way we listen to music. Some could have called his “wall of sound” production excessive, and in all honestly it was. Lining up five guitars to perform the same rhythm section, arranging a room full of horns and strings, and obsessing over the levels of each track in the three-track mixing process were only the beginning. Spector brought in untraditional instruments into his production such as shakers, guiros, and maracas, instruments that now are as attached to Spector pop as they are to Latin music.

With no small ego, Spector himself described his technique as “a Wagnerian approach to rock & roll: little symphonies for the kids.” And with that, the Content would like to offer up a few of our favorite Spector “symphonies” as well as some of our favorite Spector inspired pieces. Enjoy.

The Symphonies:
[mp3] Ike & Tina Turner River Deep, Mountain High
[mp3] The Ronettes - Be My Baby
[mp3] Curtis Lee Pretty Little Angel Eyes
[mp3] The Paris SistersI Love How You Love Me
[mp3] The Righteous BrothersEbb Tide

The Inspired:
[mp3] Camera ObscuraIf Looks Could Kill
[mp3] Jeff MangumI Love How You Love Me (Live)
[mp3] The Beach BoysDon’t Worry Baby
[mp3] Bruce SpringsteenBorn To Run
[mp3] The Pipettes - Your Kisses Are Wasted On Me

When I first heard “He Hit Me (And It Felt Like A Kiss)” I immediately called up my mom and asked her about what people thought of this song when it came out. She had never heard of it before and said there is no way that it would of played due to the content. Though this isn’t a straight up cover by any means, it is a rather interesting play on the song title. I guess influence can be seen in different ways. Just don’t go and murder your girlfriend or anything after listening to this.
BONUS [mp3] The CrystalsHe Hit Me (It Felt Like A Kiss)
BONUS [mp3] SpiritualizedShe Kissed Me (It Felt Like A Hit)

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