Bowery Electric: Beat

beatIs that the fridge humming or the new Bowery Electric album? Bwa ha ha I’ll be here all week.

Seriously, though, this is my second minimalist rock record this year already. What gives?

This is way more boring than Beak>. The sounds are gorgeous (usually…”Under The Sun” is definitely an exception) and fall on the ears in a wonderfully pleasing fashion, but there’s hardly any kind of change in these songs. It’s pretty much one or two chords repeated for two to 16 minutes. Sometimes vocals creep in, but not very often, and even then they’re way back in the mix and repetitive.

Only “Under The Sun,” with its single repeated bass line for three-and-a-half minutes, is hard to listen to. Everything else is at least pleasant, even if I would only ever want to listen to it very not sober. Some of the songier tracks are better than the less-songy ones, and that makes the rating system fail in this case. There’s no way decent tracks like “Beat” and “Empty Words” deserve the same rating as “Looped,” which is literally just a single sound repeated for 2:40, or “Postscript,” which is mostly one chord, yes one, with some fluttering underneath held for almost 17, yes 17, minutes.

This is a well-executed album and sounds gorgeous. There’s just very, very little going on, which makes this a very niche listen.

Rating:
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– “Beat,” “Empty Words,” “Without Stopping,” “Fear Of Flying,” “Looped,” “Black Light,” “Inside Out,” “Coming Down,” “Postscript”
– “Under The Sun”
Song Notes: After the jump Continue reading

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Ministry: Twitch

Okay, this sounds more like the Ministry I knew from high school. They’re much heavier here than they were on With Sympathy. “My Possession” has that metal-on-metal clashing sound that so defined the genre, and “Over The Shoulder” has a grinding like some giant saw. The beats are heavier, too, though not quite to a metal level yet.

Despite getting closer to their most successful incarnation, they’re really still figuring stuff out here. So much so that it’s a step backward while they regroup on a new sound. The lyrics are cringe-y bad (“We use them awhile then it’s over the shoulder,” for the eponymous anti-consumerism song), the sounds still evoke mid-80’s synths (which, given that this is from 1986, makes complete sense), and the songs are too long and self-indulgent. I’ve got most tracks as open hearts because they’re tolerable, but that might be me being generous. I’m not sure I would have rated them even that high if I didn’t know where this was going.

Rating:
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– “Just Like You,” “We Believe,” “The Angel,” “Over The Shoulder,” “My Possession,” “Where You At Now? / Crash & Burn / Twitch (Version II),” “Isle Of Man”
– “All Day Remix,” “Over The Shoulder (12″ remix)”
Song Notes: After the jump
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Playlist Review: Xbox Music Choice Cuts February 2014

At least I think that’s the title of the playlist, but due to Xbox Music’s dismal (i.e., non-existent without a direct link) dicoverability of curated playlists, I can’t be certain what it’s called.

Anyway, I really want well-curated playlists of what’s popular at any given time. Not because I think I’m going to suddenly see the merits in what the unwashed masses are listening to, but more because (i) I’m curious, (ii) I want to be able to understand the national conversation around what’s hot in music, and (iii) I kind of want to stay plugged in before and while my kids are listening to popular music.

And, really, how bad could it be to listen to what everybody else is listening to? The crowds must have some wisdom, right? At the worst it’s got to just be inoffensive blandness.

Holy crap is that wrong. This sucks. This is brutally annoying, and I really have to force my way through it. Why are all of you listening to shit? Stop listening to shit! I know hardly anybody is making anything worth listening to right now, but there must be music that’s better than this. Or, why do you have to listen to new music? What is it with music and, as Chuck Klosterman called it, the tyranny of the now?

It’s a cliche, but everything is just so overproduced. It just sounds too, too slick. It’s hard to believe there are even people behind these songs. It’s all so alienating.

Finally, new rule. I’ll just write [loudness wars] and you can just insert my rant about the loudness wars in there, because I’m getting sick of writing about it, and you’re sick of hearing about it. Not as sick as I am about hearing it, though.

Anyway, on to the shit.

  1. Can’t Remember To Forget You (feat. Rihanna) – Shakira – Have they successfully bleached Shakira now? This song features another new hot thing that everybody’s doing, this style of singing where you barely get out the syllable so it’s a bit more punchy, more rhythmic. I don’t really like it and then when everybody does it, ugh.
  2. Same Girl – Jennifer Lopez – [loudness wars]. I don’t want to like this, but I really do. Not the whole thing, but parts of it are very nice. Verses are great. Lyrics, spesh around the chorus, are dumb. And it goes too long and gets too repetitive.
  3. Drunk In Love – Beyoncé – What is the all the hype for re: this song? It’s pretty stupid. It’s got some good features…the way the song builds in the beginning is growing on me and it’s quite an energetic vocal workout and is impressively all over the place. But the “how the hell did this shit happen” and “beautiful bodies” lines are pandering and anything with Jay-Z on it is awful. Also [loudness wars]. Like the surfboard line. Hate the sampled laugh. Not sure how but I’m giving it open.
  4. Radioactive – Imagine Dragons – [loudness wars]. Okay, the music industry has successfully made the shitty sound of overdriven digital clipping the sound of new and fresh and oh my god you can’t even fight it anymore because a whole generation understands this sound as the sound of what they like. I am old. Fuck me.
  5. Party Girls – Ludacris – Is this supposed to be one of the most misogynistic things of all time? Or is this just like the music version of porn, where it is not even supposed to represent what sex really is to adults but fills some weird fantasy about a fantasy world that responsible music consumers know doesn’t really exist? “I beat the pussy to pieces”. “Titties plastic/That’s fantastic.” “I don’t say shit, they be gettin’ naked.” That “I beat the pussy to pieces” line is so just so sexy. << sarcasm. In the end, this sets a mood and I can go with it.
  6. Animals – Martin Garrix – Oh god I hate this. Doesn’t need to be half as long as it is. Dancey DJ stuff, but too simplisitic.
  7. I Want It All – Karmin – Well, she’s hot, but this is way too much. So right in your ears with the insipid music. Straight out of 1985.
  8. Ten Feet Tall – Afrojack – meh. Sappy treacle. Awful. Hate it from the opening notes. Then there’s that weird bwip sound in the chorus…so overproduced. Maybe he feels ten feet tall because he’s so much louder and better produced than his backup singer.
  9. Find You – Zedd – god this is a horrible stretch.
  10. You Make Me (Diplo & Ookay Remix) – Avicii – stupid raps and stupid melodies mixed stupidly. One of the worst. Probably not as bad as “Mmm Yeah,” but this is awful and stupid and so stupid stupid.
  11. Into The Blue – Kylie Minogue – Terrible drum (machine) sound. What was she thinking? Pretty bland. Stupid four on the floor with a stupid sappy bridge. Stupid inspirational.
  12. Air Balloon – Lily Allen – Aren’t pretty much all balloons air balloons? I think most kids’ songs are more advanced than this.
  13. I’m A Freak – Enrique Iglesias – ugh. “Fucks like an animal.”
  14. Happy (Gru’s Theme From Despicable Me 2) – Pharrell Williams – surprised I like this, but it’s kinda ok. Not loudness wars, which is so nice, so now I have a positive image of Pharrell Williams beyond just being a hanger-on in that Robin Thicke video.
  15. Say Something – A Great Big World – slow.  Male vox sounds like Ben Folds. Female is Christina Aguilera.
  16. Once Upon A Dream – Lana Del Rey – Keeping it slow. So boring. I guess the thing here is just her voice. I mean, this is about what I would expect out of a Disney song.
  17. Na Na – Trey Songz – It’s like that Na Hey song? I can get into this groove if I’m in the right mood. One of my favorites in the playlist. Making full b/c hell I need more of this genre full in my collection, but really it’s a high open.
  18. Make It Home – August Alsina – At first I was all, boy, this glorifies drugs and violence and all that then I realized he’s just telling the tale of a character (maybe) and I’m cool when white people sing about characters with flaws, so I was kind of being a hypocrite. My main complaint with this is takes that Boyz II Men layered quivering vocals thing to new heights of ridiculousness. Also auto tune used for a lot of that. But I do dig it. I feel like I can listen to this down at Leschi park with my car running and a huge cloud of pot smoke enveloping the car.
  19. We Alright – Young Money – wealth porn. ridiculous boasting at start but then takes a pretty quick turn into still boasting but awesomeness. I mean, not my favorite type of hip-hop, but in this group it’s not painful to listen to. “That ho betta know how to deep throat like a serpent.” << Gawd.
  20. Mmm Yeah (feat. Pitbull) – Austin Mahone – return of Hanson? Kind of. This kid wears a MN Wild hat in his promo pic because ? They’ve never been very good. Oh jesus a Kris Kross “Jump Jump” name drop. Because of course. What precociously successful artist pushing a song with an idiotic name wouldn’t want to be associated with that act? Also referencing “Jordan and Pippen.” Way to be modern. Good god. Plus horribly suck songage.
  21. Show Me – Kid Ink – “Let me put your panties to the side/Ima make you feel all right/Cuz Ima give you what you need, yeah”. Good grief. The second (if not third) song on this playlist that talks about moving panties to the side. Again, out of my comfort zone here, but I like this tune. Like “Na Na” it’s really probably a high open heart, but I’m moving to full b/c I’m diversifying, like in a financial sense, not in a race sense but that too I mean I’m just saying I’m not naive about how whitebread I still am.
  22. The Devil Is A Lie (feat. Jay-Z) – Rick Ross – Commits that horrible hip-hop sin where it’s just a two-bar sample, this time a three-note ascending horn riff, played over and over ad nauseum. Give it up. Plus Jay-Z, I just don’t like anything he does.
  23. Paranoid (feat. B.o.B.) – Ty Dolla $ign – This is about how both of his bitches are in the club. But it’s not even about that, it’s completely self-centered, about him. They’re setting him up. He’s paranoid. He’s high and drunk. Just can’t get over these lyrics to make it full even though it’s pretty a-ite.
  24. Talk Dirty (feat. 2 Chainz) – Jason Derülo – Sings part of this in a Jamiacan patois. Shockingly, about sexy times. Annoying repetitive horn riff ruins any chance the cool vocal rhythms had of saving it. And this is not the way to use handclaps (too much).
  25. Team – Lorde – crap. what is the appeal? So so boring.
  26. Come Alive (feat. Tory Y Moi) – Chromeo – appeatilng retro sounds. reminiscent of early Prince. Really I have this as at least open? Cuz I hate it now. Yeah, this is like for people who think it should be 1985 forever. Verses must have given it ‘at least open’, because the chorus is ass. So fine, open because maybe, maybe if I’m in the right mood.
  27. Love Me Again – John Newman – I think this is the leave britney alone guy. Poor man’s bad-years Elton John
  28. After The Disco – Broken Bells – Meh. Harmless. If a little too precious. No, this is annoying.
  29. Just Another Night – Icona Pop – boring 80’s shlock

Mix:
– “Happy (Gru’s Theme From Despicable Me 2)” (Pharrell Williams), “Na Na” (Trey Songz), “Show Me” (Kid Ink)
– “Can’t Remember To Forget You (ft. Rihanna)” (Shakira), “Same Girl” (Jennifer Lopez), “Drunk In Love” (Beyoncé), “Party Girls” (Ludacris), “Make It Home” (August Alsina), “We Alright” (Young Money), “Paranoid (feat. B.o.B.)” (Ty Dolla $ign), “Come Alive (feat. Toro Y Moi)” (Chromeo)
– “Radioactive” (Imagine Dragons), “Animals” (Martin Garrix), “I Want It All” (Karmin), “Ten Feet Tall” (Afrojack), “Find You” (Zedd), “You Make Me (Diplo & Ookay Remix)” (Avicii), “Into The Blue” (Kylie Minogue), “Air Balloon” (Lily Allen), “I’m A Freak” (Enrique Iglesias), “Say Something” (A Great Big World), “Once Upon A Dream” (Lana Del Rey), “Mmm Yeah (feat. Pitbull)” (Austin Mahone), “Talk Dirty (feat. 2 Chainz)” (Jason Derülo), “Team” (Lorde), “Love Me Again” (John Newman), “After The Disco” (Broken Bells), “Just Another Night” (Icona Pop)

Polyrhythmics: Libra Stripes

polyrhythmics-libra-coverWell here’s an experience I haven’t had in ages. Washing dishes the other night, and I didn’t want to listen to any of the things I had queued up for review on this blog. So I just flip on the tiny radio we’ve got behind the sink and start fiddling around on the FM band looking for something new and unfamiliar. Down at the bottom end of the dial, I feel at first like I’ve tuned into some Latino station, which fits the mood, so I go with it. As time goes on, I realize I’m dancing to a great song and I feel like I must be listening to some Caribbean music or Afropop or something. So right before the song ends I realize I live in a magic age and have a device in my pocket that will listen to the music and tell me what it is. Again, convinced this is an equatorial pop group of some kind, I proclaim that wherever this band is playing on my birthday this year, that’s where I want to be. Well turns out the band’s from right here in Seattle (and I was probably just dialed into KEXP) because I had been listening to Polyrhythmics’ “Chingador.”

And the rest is history. I downloaded this on Xbox Music and remain a huge fan. An eight-piece, the band augments guitar, drums and bass with keys and several horns and sometimes flute). I would call them World-influenced funk, but that’s because I’m an Ugly American and don’t really do a good job of differentiating between different parts of the non-U.S. “World.”

Suffice it to say, the beats are deliciously complex yet danceable. The band’s prime skills are in laying down the beat and writing a killer head on top of it. They pass the solos around like any funk band, but that’s not what keeps me coming back (save those of guitarist Ben Bloom because wow). Instead, what makes Polyrhythmics great are those great heads along with how well they pull them off as a band. They play amazingly tight for three people, much less eight, and they way they layer with each other is pretty much perfect (check out the tasty way they come back from the breakdown in “Retrobotic”).

The collection of songs and their sequencing is just about all you could ask for, too. They hit you with some hard, choppy funk like “Chingador,” but then there are slower grooves like “Snake In The Grass” and “Skin The Fat,” too. There isn’t a song on here I don’t love, though it took me a while with “Moon Cabbage.” And that’s one of my main complaints, that song should not be third. It’s easily the worst song here and is the one with the least pop. Tough one to have in that showcase slot.

The production is excellent, and I can’t wait to see if they can pull it off live at Tractor Tavern on March 29. I strongly recommend you listen to these guys. They’re the early front-runner for my 2014 Clownies.

Rating:
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Mix: “Libra Stripes,” “Chingador,” “Bobo,” “Retrobotic”
– “Pupusa Strut,” “Moon Cabbage,” “Snake In The Grass,” “Skin The Fat,” “Mr. Wasabi Rides Again”
Song Notes: After the jump
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Karp: Self Titled LP

klp69_grandeWhen I first started listening to this, I heard the screamy vocals, the dirty punky guitar riffs, and the aggressive music. And then I find out that Jared Warren, who is now in Melvins, was in this band from a suburb of Olympia, and I’m all, yeah, this is totally awesome, kinda reminds me of Moistboyz. And then a few songs in I’m thinking holy crap do these guys enjoy bass frequencies at all?

Wikipedia has them as a three-piece, so maybe there’s not even a bass in the band, though I think I can kind of hear it when I listen really closely on really good headphones. But it’s not just the lack of that instrument. It’s like everything on here comes through a mid-pass filter. Every sound is in the same upper-mid frequency range we use for human speech. All you hear from the drums is the snare and the initial hits of the cymbals. The vocals are just scream-talking at you. Which is kind of fine, but not for an entire album. This album is the definition of fatiguing.

It’s good in small doses, but I don’t ever need to listen to this from start to finish again. Not even as good as the sum of its parts.

Rating:
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– “Forget The Minions,” “Octoberfleshed,” “D & D Fantasy,” “We Ate Sand”
– “Bacon Industry,” “Bastard Of Disguise,” “Spelling Trouble,” “J Is For Genius”
Song Notes: After the jump
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