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  • Working for a Nuclear Free City

    15 Feb 2011, 11:51

  • Plus or Minus in 30 Seconds or Less (week 3)

    14 Jun 2006, 5:05

    Per my weekly feature, I listen to the preview tracks of artists recommended to me by last.fm. The procedure is to start writing the review while the first 30 second preview track is playing and finish by the second. After all, first impressions are what actually count in life; in that spirit I keep it plenty snarky.

    To replay the dialogue for those just rocking in:
    *Week one: I lay down the law and defined the rules of the game.
    *Week two: I showed that, as first impressions are short and snap (unlike long impressions) 30 seconds is more than enough to impress or disgust.

    This week I additionally address the question: what's the point of forming a first impression after all? In three poignant bullets to the heart of the issue:
    *Time: Long impressions take time. First impressions are a starting point for dialogue about an artist, and if you've got friends with trustful tastes they'll tell you if they think caught the wrong soundwave and should bother with a long impression. I trust you guys!
    *Dialogue: A good impression gets a foot in the door to my ear canal quicker than a bad one, but as a radio DJ, I'm often on the spot for a track or two. I'll play an artist I've heard over an artist I've only heard about in a heartbeat, forming a longer impression and while letting me bring the conversation about its discrepancy (or lack thereof) with my first impression to the airwaves.
    *Crispy Honesty: It's easy enough to get your opinions mingled with someone else's, especially in unfamiliar territory. Even if an artist I hated at first decibel ends up aging on me like a the finest champagne of beers or suddenly grips my soul like a snap bracelet with a new spine, I want to start getting to know an artist without bias.

    p.s. For the techies, here's a bitty python script I wrote to screenscrape artists from the recommendation page's html and output them in last.fm format, journal ready. A last.fm API would be better. Lesigh.fm.

    Enough of the chatter, onward, upward!
    =======================================
    Spicy
    Thanksgiving: Hints of The Microphones and Mt. Eerie, fantastically chill.
    The Sea and Cake: Lispy vocalist pull off the ethereal instrumentation without annoying my earbuds. If I heard this in an elevator I'd take it out-of-the-way up to the penthouse.
    The Ark: Minor key: check plus, vocals: check, the ability to manage melodrama without making me want to slit my wrists: A minus, vague AC/DC touch: somehow they get away it.
    Songs: Ohia: The simple slow melodies should be boring in droves, but I'm caught. You've got me?

    Heavenly: Evil: Norwegian black metal meets anime theme? Sort of Mine: Camera Obscura on Adderall? In the confused hope that Turbonegro goes indierock, I'll headbang to one identity per ear.

    Hot Chip: Sultry, passionate, creative, hard to pin in pidgeonholes, fantasmic.
    Tapes 'n Tapes: The music is manic, chugging forward into what must be good music land in the end. A few seconds and already I've scrawled the need to hear more in sharpie.

    Medium
    Clinic: Fun but I'd rather shoot up Placebo.
    Tilly and the Wall: Naive but dancy enough if liquor be plenty, Bright Eyes before Oberst gets to to the last fourth of the forty and the last pack of the razor blades.


    Bland
    Y.A.C.H.T.: The beats are interesting and experimental, the instrumentation talented, ultimately these are moot points without structure to cling to.
    Kent: Minor key: check plus, vocals: check, the ability to manage melodrama without making me want to slit my wrists: F minus.
    Adam Green: Silly like your annoying 3 year old cousin. From Georgia.
    Manic Street Preachers: I want to send them the bill for the pinkie strain I am going to get putting the requisite exclamation points after bad!!!
    Art Brut: Energetic, in your face British poppunk, The Darkness of punk, respectably entertaining during the nanoseconds it takes to push the next arrow on the iPod.
    Phoenix: I would rather walk an extra 10 flights than hear this in an elevator.
    Sparklehorse: Such a waste of great name! I could write a computer program to write a computer program to write more interesting music: silence.
    Beat Happening: The smooth voice doesn't even make swallowing the music easier.
    Seu Jorge: I'd need a few attractive Brazilians to rope me into a second listen.
  • Plus or Minus in 30 Seconds or Less (week 2)

    6 Jun 2006, 5:11

    In my weekly feature, I listen to the preview tracks of artists recommended to me by last.fm. The procedure is to start writing the review while the first 30 second preview track is playing and finish by the second. After all, first impressions are what actually count in life; in that spirit I keep it plenty snarky. To fly my ignorance and bias flags at full mast I don't review bands I've heard and I indicate if heard tell of the artist before. In an effort to create a feedback loop of good music, the resonance of which is likely to implode into a black hole of indierock (stare into the abyss and the abyss stares back), the SPICY artists get a plum: I'll add an album of theirs to my collection in the intervening week. Finally, the BLAND artists get a guardian angel: vote on who deserves a second chance, and the winner by plurality will get one.

    This week I additionally address the important question: are 30 seconds really enough? The question is begged, enough to what? Enough to form a first impression? The important answer: yes. By the very definition of a first impression, yes, absolutely, yes: a first impression is short, knee jerk, visceral. Perhaps the first impression is biased to bands which have punchlines early on, but starting at the beginning simulates an impression in concert, moreover, whoever listens to the first 10 minutes of a Godspeed You Black Emperor! track withholding all judgement deserves a medal for intestinal fortitude.

    Onward, upward! (disclaimer: this week entailed overmuch electroclash and synthpop overall; don't get used to it)
    =======================================

    SPICY/CULT: would attend show.
    MEDIUM: would not leave room at party.
    BLAND: pain. boredom. doom.
    *have heard tell of but not extensively heard

    SPICY
    *Le Tigra - Bubble gum rock: pop the bubble! armpump!
    *Autechre - Ooh, traces of that happy palpitation that is Aphex Twin. Oh baby, you palpitate mah heart.
    Out Hud - So dancy, I've heard these tracks somewhere. Vaguely naive, but the vocals, the music mesh, the dynamics contrast, exotic and promising overall.
    *Scissor Sisters - Oh. So. Fun. The decade they're from is ambiguous, but I would throw a Scissor Sisters themed party. We'd drink tequila.
    Anthony Rother - Yet more synth, the beats are good but I could imagine getting over the songs like that crush I had when I was 16. But the beats, I'll crush on for now.
    *Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - Very happy, traces of Belle and Sebastian with a bit more whine. I'll clap along.
    Pink Grease - Remind me of The Fiery Furnaces meet The Cure. An odd sort of chimeric beast, but I'll buy a second round.
    Junior Boys - The levels on the vocals were perfect, and I actually managed to catch the lyrics, which were decent enough. The music sprinkles perfectly under the vocals.

    MEDIUM
    *Ladytron - Affected but promising, the vocals are an overall detriment but the music redeems. Would dance to, would recommend as a soundtrack, would tire of easily.
    Prefuse 73 - experimental, some novel use of frequency contrasts, tempo shifts, and exercise in attention giving, the album is probably a good experience, but no one song holds its own.

    BLAND
    LCD Soundsystem - Depeche Mode and traces of hackneyed MC Hammer plus Vanilla Ice: oversynthed clap, clap, smack me in the head.
    Comets On Fire - Is that the end of the song or the beginning? I have no idea if I'm coming or going? I'm going home.
    The Ditty Bops - Country flair and the meshing of the female vocals is fantastic, but the songwriting is bland, trite.
    Boards of Canada - Synthy, but the beats are too slow. I'd go to sleep but the bass is disturbing my circadian rhythm.
    Coldcut - Repetitive even within the 30 second window. First impressions were invented to weed out such tripe in good stead.
    Vitalic - More electroclashy a la carte. The vocals never voted, and the music needed their ballots to carry the election.
    Nick Drake - Chill, beautiful vocals, but the instrumentation is so standard it brings back the ethereal vocals, back to the mundane.
    Groove Armada - Oh no. Oh no. Oh no. Tries to be funky. Really tries to be cool. Ends up coloring in the lines.
    Goldfrapp - Another ambiguous one to plant on the timerail. The sensual vocalist could have made it hotter, but the music froze it back in 1984.
    Herbert - I quit listening at second 9. Kthanxbye.
  • Plus or Minus in 30 Seconds or Less (week 1)

    30 May 2006, 6:04

    In what promises to be a weekly feature, I listen to the preview tracks of artists recommended to me by last.fm. The procedure is to start writing the review while the first 30 second preview track is playing and finish by the second. After all, first impressions are what actually count in life; in that spirit I keep it plenty snarky. I indicate if I've heard or heard of the artist before, to fly my ignorance and bias flags at full mast (laugh and learn). Finally, in an effort to create a feedback loop of good music, the resonance of which is likely to implode into a black hole of indierock (stare into the abyss and the abyss stares back), the SPICY artists get a plum: I'll add an album of theirs to my collection in the intervening week.

    SPICY/CULT: would attend show.
    MEDIUM: would not leave room at party.
    BLAND: pain. boredom. doom.
    **known, in my record collection.
    *known, but not in my record collection.

    SPICY:
    *The Notwist - The tools standard, the artists superpar.
    *Wolf Parade - Exquisite, painful, pretty. Could listen to alone or aparty. Apraise: wealthy!
    Tiga - Good synth pop. Very dancy. Reminiscent of Freezepop.
    Gnarls Barkley - Good hip hop, in the Outkast vein. One of their songs is called Go Go Gadget Gospel, praise the lord.
    TV on the Radio - Bring in the beat. Heavy. Hot. Vaguely southern. Definitely wanted 30 seconds more.
    Feist - Delicate vocals with the perfect sprinkling in the background. Reminds me of springtime, and embarrasses me for forcing me into using bad metaphors.
    *The Walkmen - Have not failed to perform, perennially good garnish for the mixtape d'jour.
    **The Unicorns - Intense, poppy, manic.
    *M.I.A. - boom, boom, boom. Excellent, the beats alone would stand, but the notch is upped by the rap, rap, rap.
    **Deerhoof - Experimental, hot, energetic, exotic. Need I say more? I probably do: panda panda panda.
    *The Fiery Furnaces - Fucked up their first impression long ago, winning both BLAND and 100 PROOF OVERRATED, but showing that there is hope indeed for the recalcitrant, eventually won me over with their experimental and dancy beats. I'm excited to obtain my very own album, here comes the summer.
    **M83 - AIR can get stale after the nth play, without leaving France listen to M83 when a breather is of the import.

    MEDIUM:
    **Built to Spill - Built to Spill is great. I've seen them live quite a few times. Huge repertoire, fun, but there comes a time when the songs blend together in to one giant indifferentiable opus that needs large resting on the shelf between revisitings. Comes replete with datestamp, takes one back, but timetravel is so last millenium.
    *Q and Not U - Funky and I could definitely imagine rocking out to after a few gin and tonics. A few too many (is it my imagination or has this actually happened?). This band gets my stamp of approval in the end. 100 proof.
    *The Polyphonic Spree - Epic and I really want to love them that much too, but I just can't believe. Could imagine the live show being powerful enough to overcome the over-saturation and images of ponies and rainbows, but all the sunshine is blocking my view.
    Cat5 - Poppy and fun enough but ultimately empty feeling.
    *Kimya Dawson - From the first voicing, obvious she's missing the other half of The Moldy Peaches. Less rowdy, more beautiful. It could balance out in the end: but let's be honest here, who's got the crack?

    BLAND:
    *Set Fire to Flames - a silver mount zion sparser, rawer, uncut. Would need a projector and a few attractive hipsters to hold my attention through a whole song, when really, isn't it all about the music?
    Stars - With harmonica and a cello so much more could be done. There are indie rockers in China who are one track short of an album, think of the poor.
    CocoRosie - Delicate and the vocals show promise. Ultimately should be the soundtrack to a movie not a maincourse.
    The Go! Team - Energetic, trumpets a nice touch, a bit of rapping. Seems to be heading somewhere, never quite gets there.
    *dntl - Ambient, take a damper pedal to Aphex Twin. Needs to up the ante.
    Islands - The piano and vocals are talented but uninspired.
    Final Fantasy - The stringy instrumentation adds a touch of greatness, when it manages not to clash, but without it they'd be another nothing, and it's not worth the overly dissonant moments in the end.
    *The Kills - saw them live, rather accidentally at Roskilde. If I wanted the White Stripes, I'd listen to them.
    Nico - Exotic throatal vocalist but the music ultimately falls flat.
    The Cooper Temple Clause - Vanilla rock and vocals. If Tool and Built to Spill had an elicit and ugly child.
    Annie - I miss the 80s too, dear. And when I miss them I bust out Prince, I don't write tribute songs.
    65daysofstatic - Boring. Sounded vaguely like Cursive, without the torment. Someone torment them!
    *Elf Power - I recognize that vocalist. Go home. Like a poem with over exuberant rhyme.
    *The New Pornographers - I can't conceive of these ingredients baking anything resembling good music.
    Four Tet - Sprinkles of goodness, but not enough sparks of brilliance to start a fire.
    devendra - Again exotic vocals can't hold an album. I'd rather listen to Cat Power. No. Really.
    The Go-Betweens - Do I actually have to risk developing carpal tunnel to type up this review?
    Low - The heaviness is a nice touch, and brings something to the bar, but the standard deviation from promising to petering is too much to sit through another round.
    *Joanna Newson - Exotic vocals not only yet again fail to hold up an album, they succeed in driving batty and nearly to tears of badness.

    CULT:
    Tyskarna Från Lund - Scandinavian hilarity and synth goodness. Wouldn't listen to daily or weekly or monthly, but would see live. Plus I understand the lyrics.