Archive for August, 2008

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The Offspring and The Damned

August 31, 2008

The Offspring are back with a new album, and they are playing Bumbershoot on Monday. I know they get a lot of flak, but I have a real soft spot for their early ’90s songs. While they can fairly be described as having brought punk to the masses, whether that’s a good thing or not is up to you. Despite the fact that Smash was the best-selling indie album ever (it came out on Epitaph, and is at 16 million and counting), I have to respect their DIY ethic of taking the profits and starting their own record label. Similarly, I have to respect a band who responded to their record label refusing to allow them to have free downloads by selling t-shirts with the Napster logo on them and donating a portion of the profits to founder Shawn Fanning (note to younger readers: this was when Napster was still a pirate, and not a privateer). While I could live without “Pretty Fly (for a White Guy),” I do generally appreciate The Offspring’s self-deprecating humour (check out the video for “Da Hui”). And, finally, they do have excellent taste in influences, and they get accolades from me for covering The Damned‘s “Smash It Up” for the otherwise forgettable Batman Forever (now happily replaced by The Dark Knight, of course).

More Offspring: website

More Damned: website

MP3: The Offspring – Hammerhead

MP3: The Damned – Smash It Up

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Coverage: The Mekons, “Folsom Prison Blues”

August 30, 2008

The Mekons were one of the early British punk bands (along with the Damned and the Buzzcocks), but their music evolved into post-punk and then began to incorporate country influences like Hank Williams. This song pulls those disparate styles together in one terrific Johnny Cash cover.

More Mekons: myspace website

MP3: The Mekons – Folsom Prison Blues (Johnny Cash cover)

Image: Mural: Johnny Cash stencil graffiti by Flickr user Franco Folini, reposted here under its Creative Commons license.

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Upcoming: Bumbershoot 2008

August 29, 2008

Labor Day weekend is upon us, and that means it’s time for the annual party under the Space Needle. The lineup for Bumbershoot 2008 features a number of zed equals zee faves, including The Weakerthans, !!!, Battles, Dan Deacon, Tapes ‘n Tapes, Band of Horses, and Death Cab for Cutie. After a few years of the Pitchfork Music Festival, it’s nice to only have to worry about getting rained on, and not also about getting sunstroke (sadly, the forecast looks a little mixed as of this moment).

MP3: !!! – Take Ecstasy With Me (Magnetic Fields cover)

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Listen local: New Faces

August 28, 2008

Even before z=z relocated to Seattle, I heard that New Faces were an up-and-coming local band. I haven’t seen them live yet, but by all accounts they complement their catchy Britpop-meets-garage sound with a dynamic stage presence that belies their youth. Local label Loveless Records signed them, and their first full-length, Two Years, just came out. They’ll be at Bumbershoot on Saturday, and they are scheduled to open for Ra Ra Riot and Walter Meego at King Cobra on September 20th.

The New Faces: myspace website

MP3: New Faces – Cracks

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I sing the body parts electric

August 27, 2008

It turns out that my perception of hip-hop lyrics—that they are all about butts and masculine self-aggrandizement—may not be entirely incorrect. Artists Fernanda Viégas and Martin Wattenberg analysed 10 000 songs, in a range of genres, and extracted all references to body parts. They then produced a nifty interactive graphic, “Fleshmap: Listen,” that lets you explore body-part mentions by genre [links are NSFWish]. In most genres, including alternative and electronic, the top five were ‘eyes,’ ‘head,’ ‘face,’ ‘arms’ and ‘hands.’ In hip-hop, though, not only are body parts are mentioned far more frequently than in other genres, but ‘ass’ leads the pack (it would have an even greater lead if ‘booty’ and ‘butt’ weren’t broken out separately). And ‘cock’ displaces ‘arms’ to take position #6.

I can’t help but notice the absence of ‘heart’ in the graphics, but I guess internal organs don’t count.

Personally, I’m interested in knowing more about the 0.05% of alternative songs that mention shins.

[via the Wired Music Blog]

MP3: Freezepop – Do You Like My Wang?

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The music nerd’s burden

August 26, 2008

(click to see full comic on Dustinland)

Ah, the music nerd’s burden. Dustinland has an excellent Kipling-level apologia for all of us.

(thanks, Keith!)

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Neophile: Blue Mary Jane

August 25, 2008

Blue Mary Jane

Speaking of growing up in a pre-Internet world…I still find it kind of amazing that I can hear about a band like Blue Mary Jane. As far as I can tell, they don’t have a record deal, and they probably still live with their families in Spalding, Lincolnshire. I’m not actually sure how I came across them, in fact. But I’m going to happily share this song – sometimes I just want the sharp, palate-cleansing sting of punk, and these gentlemen oblige. They cite influences along the lines of the Rolling Stones and the Stone Roses, but this song reminds me most of the Buzzcocks.

Blue Mary Jane: myspace

MP3: Everyone’s in Love Fuck ‘Em

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Radio station: KEXP Seattle

August 25, 2008

Growing up in the pre-Internet world, I was fortunate enough to have a decent independent indie-and-alternative radio station in Toronto, as well as a much cooler older sister who listened to CBC’s Brave New Waves and exposed me to new stuff. Then I moved to Boston, just as music was starting to migrate to the Internet, and I pretty much stopped listening to radio (with the exception of WMBR, of course). As I was preparing to relocate to Seattle, the radio station KEXP kept coming up, mostly in sentences to the effect of, “You’ll want to listen to KEXP.” So I switched my stereo over to 90.3 FM, and set it to turn on in the morning.

As I was lying bleary-eyed in bed, I gradually realized that I was familiar with the song that’s playing, an instrumental. Even more gradually, it dawned on me that it’s Holy Fuck. Holy Fuck! On the radio!

This Friday morning alone, they played The Hold Steady, Hot Chip, The Hidden Cameras, and both Oasis and Pulp, plus great older alternative artists like James, The Jesus and Mary Chain, and the Dead Milkmen. And, of course, a whole slew of new bands I’d never heard of. Fortunately, KEXP also maintains an amazingly detailed playlist, updated in real time.

Sadly, however, there is a significant downside to my newfound love of KEXP – since it’s replaced NPR as my morning auditory stimulation, I’m probably going to be significantly less well-informed this year.

KEXP 90.3 Seattle (streaming links in top left corner)

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Listen local: The Motion Sick

August 23, 2008

Boston’s The Motion Sick are doing a residency at Church, playing every Wednesday night in August. Every night has a different theme; last Wednesday was the superhero-themed “Flash Wednesday,” and they were supported by zed equals zee faves Electric Laser People (playing—and costumed as—”Michael Phelps and the Defenders of Freedom”). For each night of the residency, The Motion Sick has a theme song, and for the superhero show, it was the hilarious (and deeply catchy) “Aquaman’s Lament.” Check out the other theme songs on their website and, if you are in the area (and not three thousand miles away, like me), go catch the final night, this upcoming Wednesday, August 27th.

[thanks, Erich!]

The Motion Sick: website myspace

MP3: The Motion Sick – Aquaman’s Lament

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Threesome: 90s Britpop revisited

August 22, 2008

Between seeing Jarvis Cocker at the Pitchfork Music Festival, and watching the Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett promo for the Olympics, I’ve thinking about the era in the 1990s when the sun never set on the Britpop empire. Led by Blur (above), Oasis, and Pulp, British acts dominated the UK charts with songs about, well, being British. In a conscious rejection of US culture (especially the rise of grunge), 90s Britpop married lyrics focused on the lives of working-class Brits—as exemplified by Pulp’s “Common People”—with anthemic or catchy pop tunes, drawing from British-Invasion-era antecedents like The Kinks. The music was seen as part of the larger “Cool Britannia” cultural movement, kind of a nationalism-lite. In 1997, after 18 straight years of Conservative leadership, the young (well, relatively speaking) Tony Blair was elected Prime Minister with a Labour government, and he allied himself with the music and the scene, as a way of associating himself and Labour with youth and change. That was probably its death knell, and the idea of “Cool Britannia” quickly became trite. In retrospect, of course, that cultural moment appears as a bright spot of peace and optimism before 9/11, the 7/7 subway bombings, and the ongoing aftermath. And its music lives on.

MP3: Oasis – Go Let It Out (more about Oasis)

MP3: Pulp – Do You Remember the First Time? (more about Pulp)

MP3: Blur – Country House (more about Blur)

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Coverage: Amanda Palmer, “I Google You”

August 20, 2008

I’m still fairly thrilled that one of my favourite authors, Neil Gaiman, is collaborating with one of my favourite Boston artists, Amanda Palmer (of the Dresden Dolls). Palmer’s solo CD, Who Killed Amanda Palmer?, is scheduled for release in early September. A companion book of photographs is in preparation, and Gaiman is contributing the text (a set of short stories). Gaiman also wrote the lyrics to “I Google You” (video above); however, this is actually a cover, not a collaboration, as the words were originally written for folk/lounge singer Peri Lyons.

Gaiman also posted the lyrics:

I Google you
late at night when I don’t know what to do
I find photos
you’ve forgotten
you were in
put up by your friends

I Google you
when the day is done and everything is through
I read your journal
that you kept
that month in France
I’ve watched you dance

And I’m pleased your name is practically unique
it’s only you and
a would-be PhD in Chesapeake
who writes papers on
the structure of the sun
I’ve read each one

I know that I
should let you fade
but there’s that box
and there’s your name
somehow it never makes the pain
grow less or fade or disappear
I think that I should save my soul and
I should crawl back in my hole
But it’s too easy just to fold
and type your name again
I fear
I google you
Whenever I’m alone and feeling blue
And each scrap of information
That I gather
says you’ve got somebody new
And it really shouldn’t matter
ought to blow up my computer
but instead….
I google you

More: Amanda Palmer; Neil Gaiman

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The future is here

August 20, 2008

I’ve seen a decent number of DJs perform using setups that were not all that different from this, other than having a sound system that was many orders of magnitude better (and louder).

toothpaste for dinner

Previously: A taxonomy of electronic music; The zen garden theory of minimal techno; Techno and impressionable young minds

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Release notes: The Faint, Fasciinatiion

August 18, 2008

I find it quite remarkable that Omaha, Nebraska’s Saddle Creek Records could have birthed three different bands with such different sounds. Conor Oberst and Bright Eyes have the emo-folk thing, Cursive the harder indie sound, and The Faint write dance-y electro-pop. Or maybe dance-y electro-indie-punk would be a better description – it has considerably more edge than the warmed-over New Order sounds that seems to characterize many electro-pop bands these days. To make their new album, Fasciinatiion, The Faint left the Saddle Creek nest and struck out on their own, building their own studio space, Enamel, and starting their own label with the extremely 21st century name of blank.wav. With its heavy distortion and booty-shaking bass, Fasciinatiion sounds a bit like a bastard lovechild of We Are Scientists and LCD Soundsystem, with some donor DNA from the Postal Service. In keeping with the nerd/sex/future theme, the standout track is “The Geeks Were Right.” And despite having what is perhaps my least favourite band name ever, Does It Offend You, Yeah? did a pretty decent remix.

More The Faint: myspace website

MP3: The Faint – The Geeks Were Right

MP3: The Faint – The Geeks Were Right (Does It Offend You, Yeah? remix)

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Neophile: Max and the Marginalized

August 17, 2008

Continuing with what I promise to be a short-lived political theme…I’m a little late coming to this, in several senses. I was introduced to Max and the Marginalized by frequent guest blogger Scott, who sent me an MP3 of “It’s Awkward When Bad People Die,” a song written in response to Jesse Helm‘s death. Max and the Marginalized are the house band on liberal news site, The Huffington Post, posting a song every week. Don’t let their self-description as ‘political’ turn you off. Frontman Max Bernstein presumably learned about speaking truth to power in the cradle – his father is journalist Carl Bernstein, of Watergate fame. But his entertainingly catchy, sing-a-long songs reflect his maternal lineage; his mother is legendary rom-com screenwriter Nora Ephron. You can catch up on Max and the Marginalized songs to date by downloading their songs on a pay-what-you-will basis from their website.

More Max and the Marginalized: website myspace Huffington Post

MP3: Max and the Marginalized – It’s Awkward When Bad People Die

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Presidential candidate top 10s, visually

August 15, 2008

Blender magazine polled presumptive party nominees John McCain and Barack Obama to find out their top 10 songs, and then asked Girl Talk and Randy Newman for commentary. Given the role of race in this election, I couldn’t help but notice the differing demographics of the two groups of artists (shown in order, left to right and top to bottom).

Barack Obama:

John McCain:

Personally, I couldn’t imagine voting for someone who had not one, but two ABBA songs in their top five.

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Threesome: Superman’s songs

August 13, 2008

Inspired by a pub trivia question about the Crash Test Dummies song, as well as an NPR story on Superman’s birthplace (no, not Krypton – Cleveland, OH), here are a trio of songs about the Man of Steel. Three plus a bonus, actually – you can choose between Laurie Anderson’s cerebral version of ‘O Superman’ or the dancefloor-electronica M.A.N.D.Y. version.

MP3: The Flaming Lips – Waitin’ for a Superman (more Flaming Lips)

MP3: Sufjan Stevens – The Man of Metropolis Steals Our Hearts (more Sufjan Stevens)

MP3: Laurie Anderson – O Superman (more Laurie Anderson)

MP3: M.A.N.D.Y. vs. Booka Shade feat. Laurie Anderson – O Superman (more M.A.N.D.Y.)

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Homage: All Teeth and Knuckles, and CSS

August 12, 2008

There’s late, and then there’s really, really late. I just discovered All Teeth and Knuckles. They released their first album, Club Hits to Hit the Club With, just about a year ago in August 2007. They went on tour last fall. And then they went on indefinite hiatus in April. Fortunately, thanks to the magic of the Internet, you can still visit their website, download their witty, catchy and danceable songs, and send them e-mails encouraging them to get it together and release a follow-up album.

MP3: All Teeth and Knuckles – Let’s Undress and Listen to CSS

And in case you’re not familiar with the original:

MP3: CSS – Let’s Make Love and Listen to Death From Above

More All Teeth and Knuckles: myspace website

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Neophile: We Are Scientists, “Impatience”

August 11, 2008

The video for the second single, “Impatience,” from We Are Scientists’ sophomore album, Brain Thrust Mastery, was just released. And it features one of the band members as a werewolf. Like pretty much everything else WAS do, it’s an entertaining mix of funny, geeky and strange (check out the ‘Advice‘ section of their blog for more of this characteristic blend). We Are Scientists are busy, busy guys – they just finished an East Coast tour. Next up is two weeks of festivals in the UK and Europe (including Reading and Pukkelpop), then they are spending most of September supporting REM in Europe, and then they return to the US for a cross-country tour with Kings of Leon, playing Seattle on October 20, 2008.

More We Are Scientists: website myspace allmusic

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Best Olympics promo ever

August 11, 2008

I think that the BBC Olympics title sequence video, created by Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett (better known as the brains behind Gorillaz) is probably my favourite bit of promo for the Olympics ever.

[via Neil Gaiman's Journal]

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Best uniforms in music

August 8, 2008

zed equals zee is still settling into its Seattle headquarters, so just a quick post to tide you over. Courtesy of the Guardian, an illustrated list of the top ten uniforms in rock. Unsurprisingly, Devo (above) tops the list.

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